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Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 17, 2015
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“Sucked me in by the pearls and never let go . . . equal parts grit and glamour . . . if you can’t afford to visit Paris in peak springtime season, reading this book with a glass of wine is a decent substitute.” (Glamour)
“Enticing . . . well-researched and well-crafted historical novel that leaves the reader satisfied on many levels. ” (New York Journal of Books)
“Absorbing, heartbreaking and salacious--like Chanel’s life story . . . a vivid, heartbreaking portrait of Coco Chanel’s meteoric rise to fame and her complicated personal life.” (Shelf Awareness)
“In a novel as brilliant and complicated as Coco Chanel herself, C. W. Gortner’s prose is so electric and luminous it could be a film, and not just any film, but one of the grandest biopics of our time. Divine!” (Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Hemingway's Girl)
“A richly imagined, deftly researched novel, in which the ever fascinating Coco Chanel comes to life in all her woe and splendor, her story unfolding as elegantly as a Chanel gown.” (Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Painted Girls)
“From her heart-wrenching early years through her decades of struggle and glory, Gabrielle Chanel was fascinating—as is C.W. Gortner’s Mademoiselle Chanel. Coco lives again in this rich tale of brilliance, determination, and fierce self-creation.” (Ania Szado, author of Studio Saint-Ex)
“Well-written and historically accurate . . . An homage to a couture icon whose influence is still powerful today.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“In this deliciously satisfying novel, C.W. Gortner tells the epic, rags-to-riches story of how this brilliant, mercurial, self-created woman became a legend.” (Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train)
“Gortner brings to life a woman who was as alluring and captivating as her signature scent. ” (Historical Novels Review)
“Gortner brings history to life in a fascinating study of one woman’s unstoppable ambition.” (Booklist)
From the Back Cover
She revolutionized fashion and built an international empire . . . all on her own terms
Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her sisters are sent to a convent orphanage after their mother's death. The nuns of the order nurture Gabrielle's exceptional sewing skills, a talent that would propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.
Burning with ambition, the petite brunette transforms herself into Coco, by day a hard-working seamstress and by night a singer in a nightclub, where her incandescence draws in a wealthy gentleman who becomes 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, Coco's sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As her reputation spreads, her couture business explodes, taking her into rarefied circles of society 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 always.
An enthralling novel about an entirely self-made woman, Mademoiselle Chanel tells the true story of Coco Chanel's extraordinary ambition, passion, and artistic vision.
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Top Customer Reviews
I was not disappointed.
In the classic rags-to-riches story of this fashion legend (who, in fact, is more legendary than Chanel?), I became part of the story of a young, dispossessed child who, from the start, learned to be disappointed in men. If Gortner made this all up, it would be unbelievable -- but he didn't. We watch this young, independent seamstress become a rising star, building her empire from scratch (with a little help from benefactors), having the vision to see a woman's world through a classical, sophisticated, yet interestingly low-key style. Gortner's description of Chanel's battles with the likes of the over-the-top Schiaparelli were, for me, a microcosm of Chanel's life.
Again, pleading ignorance here, I had no idea that Chanel was implicated as a spy during WWII and frankly, coming to know a little of what formed her inner being from Gortner, i don't buy it. I suppose that is for the ages. That she left her beloved Paris for Switzerland after Vichy fell and the French who remained behind during the German occupation were stigmatized and prosecuted is a testament to her courage in reinventing herself -- as she did time and again during the course of her long life.
This is a well-researched, deeply felt biographical novel. Although i'm not a fashion maven, Gortner's insights and his desire to create an accessible, reachable Coco -- a Coco who was not always accessible even to those she loved and who loved her -- is a testament to his talent as a writer. Beautifully written, very much in the moment, this is a first-class piece of historical fiction.
One of my most prized possessions is a red Chanel bag I purchased 26 years ago...knowing the "history" behind it makes it that much more special. BTW: this would be a perfect book club selection...gripping story and little if anything, to offend anyone!
I found the book believable, and actually was happy that she made capitalism work for her, especially in that era, She absolutely helped women to realize that the glass ceiling could be demolished but she also shows that demolishing the glass ceiling was a hard ceiling to break through....but our great grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers (to a degree, mine was a pampered creature) did the females of western civilization a good thing.
I found the book interesting and the writing enjoyable to read.
So maybe I will take my very old perfume (yes the real stuff, I have had it in sandahich bag for years otherwise it would evaporate) and put it on, nope, just smell it........