For readers of The Paris Wife and Z comes a vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel—the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and become one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century
Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.
Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.
Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.
An enthralling novel of an extraordinary woman who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark.
I am not a fashionista, and I didn't know anything about Coco Chanel before reading this. But I am a fan of women who shape their own destinies and leave their mark on the world in the process, and C.W.'s novels have yet to let me down, so this one immediately went on my wishlist. I was not disappointed! This novel is a tour de force, much like the woman at its heart, and I think it's Gortner's best book yet.
I'm glad I did not read any reviews before reading this book because, looking through some of them now, I see that some major plot points that hit me pretty hard would have been spoiled for me. So if you're like me and don't know anything about her life either, and if you like to be taken unaware by a great story, be careful as you browse reviews. This one will be relatively spoiler free. If you are familiar with Coco's story, I think you'll find Gortner's interpretation to be balanced and well researched, vibrant with the essence of this legendary woman.
Mademoiselle Chanel's life is a true rags-to-riches story. The story of a woman who used talent, opportunity, and an awful lot of hard work to build a fashion empire. The story of a woman prone to perennial heartbreak, no matter her fame and fortune. The story of a woman who held her heart close yet allowed it to shine through in bittersweet tributes and acts of generosity. She is far from perfect. Her self-absorption causes her to be blindsided by certain developments and to feel tremendous guilt in the aftermath of others. She is a demanding employer and businesswoman, vindictive and even vengeful at times. She cultivates some controversial connections that will tarnish her reputation and her legacy, and she doesn't always come out on the high side of moral dilemmas.
But in spite of all these flaws, you cannot help but admire her. Her drive, her ambition, her sense of style and understanding of a woman's fashion needs. Her desire to free women from the cages of their corseted clothing. Her ability to adapt multiple times over a career spanning five decades, albeit sometimes reluctantly. Her loneliness, her feelings of inadequacy, her fear of irrelevancy. Her conflicting desires between being independent and beholden to no man and her yearning for companionship and security. Her relationships with some of the most influential and creative people of the times, from business tycoons and socialites to artists, writers, and composers to royalty--and even Winston Churchill.
Mademoiselle Chanel's was a life lived through the decadence of the Gilded Age, the Great Depression, the ravages of two world wars, and the good times in between. Hers was a love affair with Paris, with achievement, and with a succession of men who would all leave lasting imprints. Yet hers was a life filled with tragedy and disappointment as well.
Gortner has created a loving tribute to an unconventional woman, and I'm not ashamed to admit I cried at the end! It's a beautifully written story, a dizzying whirlwind of hopes and dreams realized and unraveled, of celebrities and parties and love affairs, of inspiration, dedication, and a rabid work ethic, interspersed with rare quiet moments of respite and reflection, and all playing out against the great backdrop of history--I couldn't put it down and yet I didn't want it to end. It's one hell of a story about one hell of a woman, and one of the best books of the year. Highly recommended!
My Rating: 5 Stars out of 5
Visit each blogger on the tour: Tweeting about the giveaway every day of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [Just follow the directions on the entry-form] 6 winners. Open to US only: 5 printed copies + 1 beautiful, handcrafted beaded bracelet inspired by Coco’s black-and-white signature colors and camellia design