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  • 5 person found this review helpful

    5 people found this review helpful

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    Brilliant, emotional, and gripping

    The luxurious Chanel brand is iconic -- the perfume, the fashion, its founder -- and I'm surprised Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel hasn't been featured in a historical novel before. Her hist fic debut comes from C.W. Gortner, whose sublime The Queen’s Vow humanized Isabella, and this novel has set the high water mark for any future reads that attempt to tackle the notorious Chanel. Born at the end of the 19th century in abject poverty, Gabrielle Chanel was turned over to a convent where she mastered sewing. Rather than taking vows to become a nun, Gabrielle instead became a seamstress and more daringly, a club singer -- where she earned her nickname Coco. Quickly, through her skill, ambition, and some fortuitous relationships, Chanel managed to project herself to fame over the decades as her once radical designs -- corset-less, trim, daring, modern -- set the standard for chic fashion. Weathering World War I and II, as well as devastating heartbreaks and notorious love affairs, Chanel lived a life that knew deprivation and luxury in equal part. While the subject of this book is fascinating -- not just Coco herself, but the world she lived in -- the novel is made by Gortner's writing. Occasionally, I eye-roll when biographical novels use the first person viewpoint, as I find it makes the narrative all tell and no show, and allows the author off the hook when it comes to thornier details. In Gortner's hands, however, Coco articulates her life with the spare, artistic verve of her designs. (He took his hand away. Not with harshness. His fingers just unraveled from mine, like poorly spun threads., p11) Even more delightfully, Coco's voice grows as she does, rather than remaining static throughout the book. And the clincher: Gortner dealt with the ugly stuff. I was most curious about how Gortner would handle the allegations that Coco was a Nazi collaborator and spy. It's obvious from this sympathetic novel that Gortner admires Chanel, and his suggestion of how the fashion designer became embroiled with the Nazis is sympathetic. But he offers characters who question her motives, her contradictions, allowing the reader to voice their doubts, too -- and like Coco's friends, we have to decide if we believe her. I found Gortner's articulation of Coco so solid that while I clucked at her choices, I understood why she made them. This makes my second top ten read of 2015. Even if you're not a fan of fashion, consider grabbing this book, as it really is the story of a self-made woman, a visionary who imagined the way women wanted to live that differed from what society said. There are tawdry details brushing shoulders with heavier themes, armchair escape to early 20th century France, and some delicious name dropping that sent me into Wiki rabbit holes. At this point, I want Gortner to tackle every fashion designer -- like Chanel's nemesis, Elsa Schiaparelli -- but regardless of who he tackles next, I'm there.
  • 1 person found this review helpful

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    Mademoiselle Coco

    A good read, but the end went too quickly, from 10 years in Switzerland, doing nothing ??? To a return home, to Paris, and it is over. I love her style and independent spirit. Her designs are forever.
  • 1 person found this review helpful

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    Disappointment

    I found he depicted Chanel as a selfish, insensitive cow. Why none of her so called friends didn't slap her is beyond me. Lovely and easy to read but I believe she certainly got away with her war indiscretion and made herself out to be a hero. My God, they are only hats and clothes after all. Very depraved childhood but plenty of people have them without such a self absorbed state.
  • 0 person found this review helpful

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    Absorbing read

    I knew very litte about Coco Chanel She was a real woman and a genius. I bought Chanel N 5 when I read the book.
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    Mademoiselle Chanel

    Very interesting history of Coco Chanel but not told well in this version. I did not feel like I got to know tbe characters in the story. It read like a Harlequin Romance not an historical novel. Very disappointing.
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