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Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons From The World's Most Elegant Woman Hardcover – September 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Anyone with a good sense of humor should hugely enjoy, or should I say enjoie, Karen Karbo's funny and stylish take on Coco Chanel. Like a little black dress, this handy life guide will take you from day into evening. K.K. on C.C.: oui, oui!”

―Henry Alford, author of How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People (While They are Still on This Earth)

"Wise, witty, and refreshingly colloquial, The Gospel According to Coco Chanel is an enchanting tour through the complex, often controversial life of fashion icon Chanel. Filled with relevant life lessons for the modern woman, this book is Karbo at her irrepressible best."

―Hilary Black, editor of The Secret Currency of Love: The Unabashed Truth About Women, Money, and Relationships

From the Inside Flap

Delving into the long, extraordinary life of renowned French fashion designer Coco Chanel, Karen Karbo has written a new kind of book, exploring Chanel’s philosophy on a range of universal themes—from style to passion, from money and success to femininity and living life on your own terms.

Born in 1883 in a poorhouse in southern France to unmarried parents, Chanel was raised in a convent after her mother died when she was six and her father abandoned her. The nuns taught her to sew, and while working as a café singer in the early 1900s she began designing hats for fun. Her lovers included a wealthy English industrialist, who helped her set up her own millinery shop and steered his society friends her way.

Chanel grew up to be the woman who not only gave us the little black dress and boxy jackets, but also popularized pants for women and easy, practical clothes that allowed women a chic freedom they’d never known before. In her strong-headed, elegant, opinionated, passionate, entirely French way, Coco Chanel helped bring women into the modern era. She was the only fashion icon to be named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century.

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel is a captivating, offbeat look at style, celebrity, and self-invention—all held together with Karbo’s droll Chanel-style commentary and culled from an examination of Chanel’s difficult childhood and triumphant adulthood, passionate love affairs, career choices, habits, eccentricities, and personal philosophies. Weaving Chanel’s life story into chapter themes that subtly convey life lessons, and with Chesley McLaren’s charming illustrations, it will leave the reader utterly entranced with, and inspired by, Chanel’s amazing individuality, confidence, and determination.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 225 pages
  • Publisher: skirt!; First Edition edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599215233
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599215235
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Karen Karbo's first novel, Trespassers Welcome Here, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a Village Voice Top Ten Book of the Year. Her other two adult novels, The Diamond Lane and Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me, were also named New York Times Notable Books.

Karbo's 2004 memoir, The Stuff of Life, about the last year she spent with her father before his death, was an NYT Notable Book, a People Magazine Critics' Choice, a Books for a Better Life Award finalist, and a winner of the Oregon Book Award for Creative Non-fiction.

Her short stories, essays, articles and reviews have appeared in Elle, Vogue, Esquire, Outside, O, More, The New Republic, The New York Times, salon.com and other magazines. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a winner of the General Electric Younger Writer Award.

Karbo is most well known for her best-selling Kick Ass Women series, the most recent of which is How Georgia Became O'Keeffe, published in 2011. How to Hepburn, published in 2007, was hailed by the Philadelphia Inquirer as "an exuberant celebration of a great original"; #1 ebook best-seller The Gospel According to Coco Chanel appeared in 2009. Next up: Julia Child Rules, which will appear in October 2013.

In addition, Karbo penned three books in the Minerva Clark mystery series for children: Minerva Clark Gets A Clue, Minerva Clark Goes to the Dogs, and Minerva Clark Gives Up the Ghost.

Karen grew up in Los Angeles, California and lives in Portland, Oregon where she continues to kick ass.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

142 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Danna W. Schaeffer on August 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read this book the way I read Ms. Karbo's book on Katharine Hepburn: greedily, with an eye to what was in it for me. I plundered every chapter heading: On Style, On Self-Invention, On Fearlessness... does this fit me? Could I/should I adopt this for my own? With some, like On Embracing the Moment, I thought, Oh sure, I've already got that; with others, like On Living Life on Your Own Terms, I was stopped short, and I thought Yeah! I've gotta cultivate that!

The other compelling thing about this book is that once you get past self-interest, you discover that Coco Chanel was an amazing woman. She invented modern fashion, and to do so had to rise above poverty and an actual orphanage. This was great material to draw on and reshape, which she did: Ms. Karbo says Chanel "lied about or embellished everything in her childhood...she had no respect for anything she didn't create, and that included her own history." Her trajectory included being a shopgirl, seamstress, cafe singer, and kept woman before she got to couturiere extraordinaire, and she owed nothing to anyone but herself. She was self-made and a revolutionary.

Karen Karbo tells Coco Chanel's story in a lively way and mines it for usable wisdom. I recommend this book for any fashionista, for sure, and for any francophile, and for any woman who loves the struggle. I especially like it for women who make things or strive to make things, like books or sculpture or businesses or anything else. The Gospel According to Coco Chanel is heartening and a lot of fun.
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189 of 216 people found the following review helpful By KatieL on July 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While this book does have a interesting tidbits on Coco Chanel, it was so annoying to read mostly about Karen Karbo (the author) and her personal struggles with whether she could afford to buy second-hand Chanel clothes on ebay (she assumes that readers can't afford Chanel either), what she (the author) studied in college, the status of her IRA (not good), and how she feels about the expensive things she can't afford (SHE feels qualified to call Warren Buffet a jelly-bean-eating fool?).

I struggled through the section, purportedly related to Chanel's "courage." According to Karbo, "In 1914, she was thirty-one, a few years past the age when women who were were neither married nor mothers were written off as 'redundant.' In this way things haven't changed much... To be thirty-one and unmarried is the same tragedy now as it was a hundred years ago."

Really?? not in New York... (what year was this book written??)

And I finally had enough when I read Karbo's description of the fact that Chanel never married: "While MANAGING TO MARRY is no guarantee that you know a single thing about the intracacies of loving and being loved, failing to make that final commitment suggests that somehow you never made it to the big leagues. If you're a woman, it suggests that something was deeply wrong with you, or, paradoxically, right with you; being too successful, too gorgeous, too smart and too sexy have also been known to send prospective suitors scampering down the mountainside..." (emphasis added)

First of all, this chapter teaches NOTHING about the Gospel According to Coco Chanel (the title of the book). Second, the author apparently sees marriage as something that women must "manage" to do--like "managing" to take a first prize in a contest?
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Pamela Keogh on September 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book... I loved Ms. Karbo's previous book about Katherine Hepburn, but as a longtime -- and unabashed -- fan of Chanel, I was really looking forward to this book when I read about it a few months ago in Bazaar.

Like Chanel herself, Ms. Karbo does not disappoint. Her writing style is tremendous -- witty and fun, moving and historically insightful, she is like a terrific dinner party guest you want to stay for the weekend (and tell nonstop Coco Chanel stories, of course).

I picked this book up as an impulse on one of the front tables of B+N, and read it over the course of two days.

As a modern woman who loves Chanel, I am suggesting it to all my stylish girlfriends, it would make a perfect hostess gift.

And by the way, I HOPE that Karbo gets that real Chanel jacket she is dreaming of.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Courtney E. Grill on August 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was interesting reading about Chanel's life. I didn't realize that she really came from nothing and made herself into the most influential designer of all time.

The book was overall interesting, I did have a problem with the writing style. I am no literary critic, and am not somebody who normally picks up on these types of things, but I thought his book was poorly written. I don't think an editor could have even fixed it. It read like the author's thoughts were in a million different directions. None of the chapters made cohesive sense. The author also tried to create these rules of living like Coco Chanel, yet, none of the rules had any solid facts to back them up, it was almost like it was only the authors opinion of life, rather than facts based on how Coco Chanel really lived.

I recommend reading a book about Coco Chanel since she is an interesting woman, but I do not recommend reading this book.
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