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Ratings and Book Reviews (3 3 star ratings
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    Fashion and Flair

    The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin is a novel rich in history, drama and rivalry between two talented and legendary designers. My book group and I were awarded ARCs of this novel and we were not disappointed. Mackin has a way of describing color and leaves the reader viewing the world and environment in a different light. Lily Sutter is the fictional narrator who provides the reader with a peek into these icon lives. Lily's story is equally compelling. I felt I was right a long side her experiencing Paris during the 1930s. This novel will appeal to a variety of readers and should not be missed.
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    Coco and Elsa

    Historical fiction revolving around the two great fashion designers, Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, who each had very successful fashion houses in Paris and were intense rivals. The story begins in 1938 and is told from the point of view of Lily, a young, grieving widow and aspiring artist who comes to Paris at the urging of her younger brother Charlie. There she meets both fashion designers through Charlie's wealthy and beautiful lover, Ania, and forms a friendship with both women. Coco and Elsa are as different as night and day and fiercely competitive. "Because Schiap was an artist, there was a philosophy to her collections, and a theme that demonstrated the philosophy." Her designs were colorful and playful while Coco's were more chic and classic in style, favoring a neutral palette. Think little black dress. They also differed in their political views: Elsa was very anti-fascist, leaning more towards communism; Coco was what was later called 'a horizontal collaborator' with her liaison with German diplomat, Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage. While their rivalry is going on, Lily slowly but surely comes to herself again, not forgetting her grief for her husband exactly but realizing life does go on. Prewar Paris is full of gaiety and colors and she feels the urge to paint again. And perhaps maybe she could even love again? I enjoy when a work of historical fiction gives a different slant on familiar events--in this case, the world of fashion and how the war affected the lives of two very fascinating, talented and independent women. If I had one criticism of the story it would be that I found some parts repetitive. One scene especially, where Coco sets Elsa's costume on fire at a party--that is brought up too many times, even by Coco! How many times must one pay for one's mistakes? I received an arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
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    WWII in Paris

    Paris during WWII, my book dream come true. I love WWII and am always looking for unique stories told from new points of views. This story is told by women who are professionals just before and during WWII in Paris. Both women are successful fashion designers who are in competition with each other as to who dresses the most influential woman. I love how they both approach the start of WWII different. One is a sympathizer who takes up with a Nazi and the other does not support the Nazi’s and doesn’t hesitate to keep her thoughts a secret. The Last Collection is a fashion designer story. It is the story of designs being stolen, the rich being coveted, and secrets being kept just to get ahead of the other. I am not very into fashion but I found it incredibly interesting how Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli made their livings dressing important people, being seen at the right place with the right people, and working their own shops and yet they were opposite each other in their designs. They had a mutual respect for each other but it didn’t mean that they liked each other. Lilly Sutter was a unique addition to the story. She is a widow from America who comes to Paris to visit her brother and ends up finding a life that helps her move past her sadness at losing her husband. She works for Schiaparelli but becomes friends with Chanel also. As she works with Schiaparelli, she learns that she has a self worth beyond what she thought she had and she learns new skills that help her become successful. The Last Collection is a wonderful glimpse into the fashion world in Paris during a time when war is looming.

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