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Chanel Bonfire

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  4,552 Ratings  ·  580 Reviews
A stunning memoir about an actress's unconventional, heartbreaking childhood with an unstable alcoholic and suicidal mother — a real-life Holly Golightly turned Mommie Dearest — and the unusual strength that allowed her to rise above it all.

By the time Wendy Lawless turned seventeen, she'd known for quite some time that she didn't have a normal mother. But that didn't stop
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Gallery Books
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Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars I had very few expectations going into this book as I'd never heard anyone talk about it before. I received this from the publisher, but obviously all thoughts are my own. This isn't sponsored in any way.

Chanel Bonfire is Wendy Lawless's memoir about growing up with a mother who really isn't fit to be a mother at all. We follow Wendy and her sister as they move around the world with their mother who dreams of grandeur. She marries rich, fights, divorces and flees with her children. It'
I’ve read several books about crazy narcissistic mothers, but I have to say that this one was a doozy. Wendy Lawless’ mother is cruel, sadistic, and manipulative to say the least.

This was an easy read and I finished it in less than two days, but there was something missing. I understand that the author voiced that she was a pushover and just gave in a lot but there was a ton of emotion missing for me. If I had a mother who called my boyfriend numerous times a day when she was drunk and was the r
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
If you're 19 years old and the only worldly wisdom your mother has to offer you is "Never screw a spider," it's time to look elsewhere for guidance. Wendy Lawless was smart enough to do just that, and she created a life of sanity for herself after a childhood of pure insanity.

This is not a pleasant story, but it's so darned readable. Wendy keeps things rolling and never dwells too long on any event. Her mother, Georgann Rea, was a psycho nympho narcissistic alcoholic pathological liar. And a bi
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
A good, fast read. You definitely root for the two sisters, but there is something that I'd missing from the book - a deeper reflection of what was going on, trying to figure out more about why all these men fell for the mother, why the father remained missing for so long (I don't buy his reasoning of mom just wouldn't allow it). Something was just missing. I feel like the author has more to discover and understand about her mother and her life and hope she can get there - that would have made t ...more
Dec 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, ebooks
This review refers to the NetGalley edition of this title.

Memoir is probably my favorite genre of literature, and Chanel Bonfire is a perfect example of why I adore it so much. Sitting down to read a memoir, a good one, is like sitting down with someone you've just met and, like a time-lapse experience, you get to know them quickly and intimately, and at the end you feel like you could be best friends.

Wendy Lawless tells the tale of her narcissistic, manipulative, dangerously psychotic mother u
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I received the ARC from the publisher this week and read the memoir in one day. I simply couldn't put it down. Unlike many memoirs, Lawless didn't grow up with poverty, sexual abuse, etc. Actually, I felt like she was the "poor little rich girl." Who wouldn't want to live at the Dakota? Or in London during the 70's? However, I feel this author's story proves once again we can't judge a book by the cover. Those witnessing Lawless's growing up years didn't have a clue what went on behind closed do ...more
Grandma Weaver
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in two settings.I learned of the book from an email from Rainy Day Books. Imagine my surprise when I learned the book is about my cousin Georgann. It's certainly not a pretty story but her daughter tells it with some humor and funny moments. She describes her mother as Holly Golightly who became Mommy Dearest. In a way I thought about Jeanette Walls book, The Glass Castle. Both mothers had nothing maternal in thier bodies. The should have had their children taken away from them. ...more
Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
The book was very well written. I read the book in a single sitting because I could not tear myself away and did not know what would happen next. It was an unforgettable, searing memoir about the high cost of mental illness, not only to the person suffering but also to those around them. I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars and, if you like roller coaster reads, this one is for you!

On a lighter note, I think I will purchase a copy of this book to keep. Then when I am having a bad Mommy day, I can
Dayle Denney
Apr 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
This book was certainly a page turner, but it seemed to lack something in the way of self-awareness, and didn't explore some key questions that the reader would no doubt have, such as why no one ever intervened by calling the authorities. In addition, many characters seemed to be included for the mere sake of name dropping, as their inclusion in the story added little our nothing in the way of plot development. Georgann's portrayal felt in some ways exploitative. I don't doubt the accuracy of th ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library, biography
In a sentence, this book is shallow and vapid and the prose is insipid and full of glib cliches (at one point, she compares working as a stage hand changing sets to clocking in on a slave ship and rowing for twelve hours. Really?). If you're a fan of Gossip Girl (books or show), then this is the adult version and just for you (some of the scenes read as if she's just waiting for the movie deal to come in). I do not discount or discredit the author's experiences; however, as a writer, the author ...more
Lorca Damon
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Reading about the abuse that others have endured, especially abuse that they suffered as children at the hands of a near-evil parent, is rarely an enjoyable voyeuristic pastime. But Wendy Lawless' Chanel Bonfire (Gallery Books) is written with such an eloquence and with such masterful storytelling, that it draws the reader into her childhood and her escape.

As a one-time mid-list actress, Lawless can easily be found through search engines, her career highlights mentioned in passing. It's a good t
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I first saw this book at Warwick's in La Jolla, judged it by it's gorgeous cover, and decided I had to read it. Unsurprisingly, (I have a gift for being a good cover-judger) I LOVED it.

Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless is equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming. To the casual observer, Georgann Rea was a glamorous, carefree mother. She wore beautiful minks and fashionably smoked cigarettes. She lived in posh homes, mingled with society figures and dressed her daughters in the finest fashions.
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-stories, women
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
To be perfectly honest, I first had no clue who Wendy Lawless or her mother were and second I picked up this book to help me before I went to bed. I wanted a book to read that I did not have to put much thought or focus into before I went to bed. Well this was the wrong book for that. Instantly as soon as I stated reading this book, I was intrigued and fascinated by Wendy and her sister, Robin’s childhood and growing up with their mother.

Wow, after reading this book I felt sad for Wendy and her
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Don't waste your time. Read The Glass Castle instead.
Apr 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Audio review - mp3 version
Narrated by the author, this is a look at the spirit of a survivor and a testament to the power of resilience of the human spirit. Through a series of incredibly dark moments, Lawless manages to convey the utter helplessness of two young children caught in the miasma of their mother’s mental illness.

From the outside: they are wealthy, fortunate, well-educated and are granted many privileges that
were unique to the time and the setting. Behind closed doors they were tre
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
‘Chanel Bonfire’ is a tale of growing up with a mentally ill mother who, I suspect, was incapable of love. Her entire life was about manipulating people and seeking adoration, even from children too young to understand. While she wasn’t a wire coat hanger wielding physical abuser (most of the time), she was the master of screwing with minds.

The beautiful Georgann Rea was an extreme example of Narcissism. Her life was one big illusion: that she was loved, that she was rich, that she knew the ‘ri
Emma Sea
Gosh, this was a sad book.

I felt so sorry for Georgann. She had untreated metal illness and very understandable issues after a childhood of violent abuse. The only personal skills and qualities she had to cope were those she'd learned from pre-feminist 20th century consumer culture.

She was sold the message that performing femininity perfectly would bring her inner fulfillment, relationship happiness, and every material good she desired. She had no one to tell her otherwise. And boy, did she pe
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2015
I had a hard time believing this. I'm sure there is a lot of truth in this book, but I don't think anyone has that good of a memory. She wrote exactly what everyone said, what they wore, etc. and I'm not buying it. I just saw a video of Wendy Lawless on AOL talking about how she came up with the title of the book, and she said in the chapter Chanel Bonfire "somebody had an idea to start a bonfire". In her book she wrote "Let's make a fire," I suggested. "Everyone collect sticks and stuff, okay?" ...more
Deb Jackson
Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Since I have had this book for well over a year & I was also lucky enough to be give a copy of her new book through "Goodreads Giveaways", I decided to read this one first.. Lawless's writing, which I am a fan of, is wonderful, even though her topic of the life she & her sister had with an "unfit" mother, was not great, the book is powerful & engaging. It's amazing how she could find compassion for her mother & even funny at some of her antics.. her love for her sister was heartw ...more
May 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
A heartbreaking memoir of an interesting time. A story about growing up in the 60's and 70's with a beautiful and wealthy (yet mentally ill) socialite mother. When reading a memoir about emotional abuse, it is difficult to truly say you enjoy the book. That being said, I found this to be an honest example of how some children survive abuse that doesn't leave visible scars, but they are abused nonetheless. This book won't disappoint, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs. I thank ...more
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This memoir reveals how children in some situations must learn quickly to meet the demands of an unstable adult in their lives. These two sisters supported each other while attempting to avoid the seriously hurtful actions of their mother. They were kidnapped, hid from their father and humiliated in front of friends but both showed strength and were able to escape with their sanity intact. A very interesting read.
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Won this! :)

What a story. Wendy describes in vivid detail what it was like growing up with a mother who was crazy. Her courage to go back, remember, and write about that time in her life is absolutely unbelievable. She is the most courageous woman I have ever had the honor of reading about. She is also a born writer. She can write anything and I'd read it. I can only hope she writes more books. To describe what she endures would not do her writing justice. Just read this. Please.
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I liked the author's straightforward, almost innocent, style in telling the compelling story of her harrowing childhood. It was a vivid account of her mother, a narcissistic, hateful character who suffered from the effects of her own brutal childhood. Wendy Lawless is honest in her portrayal, and her and her sister's survival is a triumph!
Stacy Kraft
Holy cow this lady was a train wreck!! Excellent memoir though. Definitely worth the read.
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I didn't love this book. Poorly written and the storytelling and characters lacked depth.
Reema A
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Immensely heartbreaking. i couldn't put it down, one of the best books i've read in a while
Meagan Houle
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wendy has achieved something great: she has written a raw and distressing memoir that somehow manages to remain hopeful and compassionate. It does not read like a juicy tell-all or a tool for comeuppance. It is a simple and beautifully-rendered portrait of what it's like to grow up with a mother who isn't "normal," to put it charitably.
The book reveals startling, painful details without resorting to shock tactics or malice. It is easy to see Wendy's remarkably good nature and tender heart, despi
Paul Pessolano
Mar 13, 2013 rated it liked it
“Chanel Bonfire” by Wendy Lawless, published by Gallery Books.

Category – Memoir/Autobiography

If you like a true life story that sounds incredibly impossible from the first page to the last “Chanel Bonfire” fits the category.

Georgann Rhea is the mother and the daughters are Wendy and Robbie. Georgann was the product of a broken home and this well may have been the beginnings of a torrid and destructive life.

Georgann went from living in a trailer park to hopnopping with the rich and famous. She mo
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“the future wasn’t something you planned for; it was something that just happened, like your car spinning out on some black ice and hitting a snowbank, or the telephone ringing with bad news in the middle of the night.” 5 likes
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