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Mademoiselle Chanel

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For readers of The Paris Wife and Z comes this 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.

406 pages, Hardcover

First published March 17, 2015

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About the author

C.W. Gortner

17 books2,307 followers
Bestselling author C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in Northern California. His books have been translated in over 20 languages to date.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at www.cwgortner.com for more information.

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5 stars
3,973 (35%)
4 stars
4,802 (42%)
3 stars
2,056 (18%)
2 stars
323 (2%)
1 star
103 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,188 reviews
February 28, 2023
1 star I was quite interested in reading this because according to Kirkus Reviews (which are paid for) it is historically accurate although the author portrays Chanel as beyond all reproach for absolutely everything. I wasn't interested from the point of view of Chanel as a designer. I find her clothes to be boring and twee as opposed to the wonderful designs of Schiaparelli whose genre was surrealism, interpreted through the medium of clothes, inspired by her artist friends who included Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali. No, I was interested to read of Chanel, a woman I absolutely despise with all her flaws as well as talents on display.

She was a collaborator during WWII. Official Nazi papers found in French Defence Ministry archives show that Chanel was recruited by the Nazi military intelligence division, the Abwehr, and given an agent number – F-7124. She was also given her own code name, Westminster, a reference to her affair with the equally nasty Duke of Westminster 20 years earlier. Her job was to try to persuade Britain - through her friendship with Churchill - to settle peacefully.

Chanel slept with everyone (but no one every married her) including Paul Iribe whose magazine, Le Temoin, she funded. This Fascist magazine has been described as "a violent, ultra-nationalist publication that said that France was being destroyed from within by Jews."

Iribe drew a cartoon of a naked Chanel, representing France, in the arms of Hitler, Germany, whilst evil Jews looked on. She and her friends - and it also seems it is in the murky pasts of Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier, both of whose careers flourished in this period - believed that only Hitler could save France from the threat of the Jews. (There are certain elements in France recently and presently that would certainly have thought her a great and prescient heroine).

Those who would excuse her, maybe those who share her sympathies or maybe they think it just doesn't matter, say that she was only with the Nazis because she had no choice. She had no choice apparently in not just taking Nazi lovers, several as well as her main one with whom she escaped to Switzerland on the Nazi defeat, becoming a spy, dining with Göring and Goebbels and having the Nazis fund her living at the Ritz hotel where there air wing was based and becoming a registered Nazi agent. Right, no choice.

According to Library Journal this book is a whitewash job by the author, who has been a lifelong admirer of Coco Chanel.

So I'm not going to read this book. However, I might read Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War by Hal Vaughan, which is by all accounts, an unromanticised and true portrait of an evil woman who willing collaborated and hoped for Hitler's success in his annhilation of the Jews and subjugation of Europe to the Empire of the Third Reich.

The perfume I wear most often is Chanel Allure. Coco Chanel created Chanel No. 5, but the perfume house that she had negotiated a contract to distribute it was the Jewish Wertheimer company, a family business. Chanel attempted to get control of the company herself by using Nazi laws against Jewish businesses. She failed because she didn't know the Wertheimers had turned over their company to Felix Amiot, a French Christian, before leaving the country. After the war, that excellent man returned the company to its previous owners and there was nothing Chanel could do. (After the war the contract was renegotiated and she included a stipulation, the same one as with the Nazis, that they pay all her living expenses).

I don't like the idolisation of evil people because they were beautiful or talented. I can still appreciate the work they did whilst finding them despicable. I can even be a fan as I am of Oscar Wilde and Degas (both anti-Dreyfusards) and Edith Wharton, who was proud of her bigotry and her anti-feminism.

But whitewashing their names, attempting to rewrite history, ah that's another thing.
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,644 followers
May 5, 2016
"I wasn't born of peasant stock for nothing. Since fortune was dragging its heels, I would lure it out with my hard work. Then who knew what I might achieve?"

This fictionalized account of the life of world renowned Coco Chanel was very well written and quite illuminating. Prior to reading this, I knew very little about this forward thinking icon of the fashion world. I believe C.W. Gortner skillfully provides the reader with the details necessary to make a judgment regarding our own personal feelings about this complex woman's motivations and actions. While reading this, what I came to admire most about Coco Chanel, born Gabrielle Chanel, was her determination. Her rags-to-riches story was very inspiring. She knew what she wanted, and she set out to achieve her goals. I am not much of a fashionista, but I really enjoyed reading about her creations and applaud her practicality and simplicity. After World War I, she noted that women did not want to feel restricted by their clothing. Instead, they wanted the freedom to dress stylishly yet comfortably. In 1926 she introduced the little black dress and was praised by Vogue magazine with the prediction that this article of clothing "will become standard for the masses, much like Ford's motorcar." How true this notion even today!

Coco Chanel was not one to settle down and yield to what was expected of a woman during her times. She had an interesting procession of lovers and also a good share of heartache as a result. I get the impression from reading this that Chanel came across as a hard woman, perhaps unfeeling at times. But here we see her grieving over her losses while still presenting herself as a strong woman to those on the outside. She balked at conformity and sought freedom not just in dress but in aspirations for women as well - "even as I worked my fingers to the bone to liberate women from our cloth chains, our minds remained as closed as ever to the possibility that we might deserve more than a husband, children, and growing old cooking sausage."

This book addresses the controversy surrounding her involvement with the Nazis during the occupation of Paris; however, her true motive was perhaps really only known to Chanel herself. The perspective presented here was certainly thought-provoking and offers one hypothesis. Admittedly, I am not educated enough on the various theories and cannot suggest that I have formed an opinion about this part of her life. I will certainly not attempt to present an idea here! Nevertheless, it is an intriguing topic of debate.

At times, I felt a little bogged down in the second half of the book – once Chanel achieved her success, I lost just a morsel of interest. This did not change my overall regard for the book, however, and I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone interested in reading more about this influential figure – whether or not you are enticed by fashion! 3.5 stars rounded to 4.
Profile Image for Tasha Alexander.
Author 31 books2,332 followers
January 17, 2015
I adored this book. Coco Chanel was a complicated woman who it is not always easy for us to like, but Gortner captures her with an adeptness that gives us a complete picture of both the woman and the legend. His language is beautifully elegant in a way that perfectly suits his subject - sleek and sublime. Not many writers could find the right voice for Chanel, but he nailed it.

Chanel had an inner strength that was laudable, but we do tend to prickle when we think about some of her behavior during WWII. Nonetheless, I can't say I found her unlikeable - probably because Gortner makes it so we can understand her actions, even when they make us cringe. To me, the very qualities people want to criticize her for having (or at least those they view as rendering her unlikeable) are the same qualities that made her capable of being the force she was. People are complicated, and the traits that lead to success and the ability to have a profound cultural influence on the world can prove to be liabilities in other situations.

Gortner has tackled a difficult subject, one about whom many people have strong opinions. His careful attention to research is evident on every page of this book, which means readers can trust that he is giving them the full picture, even when that means not shying away from uncomfortable facts. A brilliantly written book that is a true delight to read.
Profile Image for Shaya.
249 reviews320 followers
December 3, 2021
کتاب به شرح زندگی گابریل شنل خالق برند شنل میپردازه.داستان تقریبا از مرگ مادر شنل شروع میشه تا مرگ خود شنل. بعد خوندن زندگی نامش به این فک کردم درسته شنل بدشانسی زیادی داشته تو زندگی ولی خب خوش شانسی کمی ��م نداشته. مثلا با اینکه هیچی نداشت ولی تونست یه برند جهانی رو درست کنه. البته شاید بگید استعداد داشت ولی خب مساله اینجاست اگه دوس پسر دومش آرتول کاپل بهش سرمایه نمیداد شنل چطوری میتونست حتی یه مزون باز کنه؟!! البته از یه چیز شنل خوشم اومد این بود که به کم قانع نبود بیشتر میخواست مثلا دوس پسر اولش اییتان بهش پولی نداد ولی کنار نکشید و نگفت بیخیال. تاثیر آرتو کاپل بر شنل به حدی بود که ما دوتا ک تقریبا داخل هم میبینیم تو برندینگ شنل اول اسم کوکو هستش و کاپل! بدشانسی شنل اینجا بود که همیشه معشوقه موند هیچوقت زن کسی نشد!! البته بنظرم مقصر نبود، با اینکه حتی پولدار شد ولی چون اصالت خونوادگی نداشت نمیتونست با کسی ازدواج کنه. مردها کسی رو بهش ترجیح میدادن که از اصالت خونوادگی برخودار بودن که این نشون میده قدرت مهمتر از پوله.
یه چیز کوکو شنل واسم قابل تقدیر بود این بود که از فرصتها استفاده میکرد.

ترجمه خوبی داشت، داستان خوبی داشت. یه فیلم هم دیدم که بنظرم خیلی مسخره بود مثلا عمه شنل رو تو فیلم بجای خواهرش جا زدن!! یه پادکست هم گوش دادم که خلاصه کتاب بود.خیلی چیزا میشه در مورد کتاب گفت ولی مساله اینجاست که اسپویل میشه.
چهار ستاره دادم چون اواخر کتاب یجوری تندی جمع شده بود.
این کتاب باعث شد بیشتر فک کنم مردسالاری چقدر رخنه کرده در همه مسائل زندگیمون، مثلا در دهه های قبل مهم نبود لباس زنها راحت باشه برای کار کردن یا نه، یجورایی اون لباسها باعث محدودیت زن میشدن.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
350 reviews393 followers
July 12, 2016
"If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent their growing," Coco Chanel

In this work of historical fiction, noted fashion-writer-turned-novelist C.W. Gortner attempts to understand the enigma of Coco Chanel -- who she was at heart, and how she came to be that way.

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was born into rural poverty in France to a mother who worked as a laundrywoman and seamstress, and a n'er-do-well (and mostly absent) father who was an on-again, off-again street vendor. When Coco was 12, her mother died, and Coco's father abandoned her and her siblings to be raised as orphans at a convent.

Thankfully her time as an orphan at the convent wasn't filled with Dickensian despair, as the nuns recognized and nurtured her innate interest and talent for sewing. Chanel initially believed this would lead to a life of penury like her mother's, but knew she would need some sort of skill as she also was forming a belief that she would never -- NEVER -- depend on a man for her living expenses.

Gortner effectively chronicles Chanel's life from her very early beginning as a milliner, her branching out into clothes, jewelry, accessories, and perfume. She was a visionary in designing simple, elegant clothing that was comfortable to wear (perhaps not by today's "yoga pants" standard, but when she got her start, women's high fashion designers were still designing for corsets!)

Chanel was exceedingly driven, fearless, savvy, and an astute business woman. That said, she was an incredibly complicated person -- the adjectives "kind" and "generous" wouldn't be used to describe her. Being born penniless and then abandoned left her deeply distrustful. Her activities during WWII are particularly suspect. Gortner gives her a sugar-coated explanation for decisions and behaviors that seem unsavory. The historical record is unclear. She was certainly cozy with a few occupying Germans and used Germany's anti-Semitism laws to her advantage to try and gain more control over her perfume company. On the flip side, the book alludes to her also giving support to the French Resistance and providing a safe haven for those trying to escape from Occupied France. I'm not sure what her political views were -- or if she had even had them. My sense is that at the end of the day she was always looking out for #1 and would have made whatever allegiances were necessary to maintain her prominence.

Overall Gortner's book provides a comprehensive look at the life of this fascinating woman. Although it's historical fiction, rather than a biography, I do wish he would have provided a more balanced look at some of her more controversial activities. His decision to tell the story in a first person voice is also an interesting one. Gortner seems to be a fan of Chanel, and I have to say that the use of the first person helped to give me more compassion for her as well.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Celeste   Corrêa .
280 reviews139 followers
August 28, 2021
[editada em 28.8.2021)

«- E as oportunidades são como as histórias dos livros - respondi. - Basta escolher uma.
- Julgo que acabaste de o fazer. Queres ser alguém.»

A escrita é agradável, clara, concisa e demonstra o quanto C.W.Gortner é fascinado por Coco Chanel.
Coco Chanel nasceu pobre, filha de um pai ausente; ficou órfã de mãe aos 12 anos e viveu num orfanato – onde desenvolveu a arte do corte e costura -, até aos 18 anos.
Talentosa, trabalhadora, inovadora e arrojada soube aproveitar as oportunidades proporcionadas pelos seus amantes e amigos influentes pois movimentou-se num círculo social privilegiado.
Construiu um império, e, acima de tudo, uma marca; o fato Chanel, sedutor com chapéu a condizer, tornou-se um eterno clássico, muito copiado e que não saiu de moda até hoje.
Tendo eu trabalhado em publicidade numa empresa de uma marca conhecida e reconhecida mundialmente, valorizo muito esse facto e sei o quanto é difícil manter a sua notoriedade.
Testou os limites do gosto comum e até os ultrapassou retirando as mulheres do uso dos desconfortáveis espartilhos; tinha como divisa «quanto menos melhor»

«A minha roupa fazia a ponte entre o exclusivo e o comum. Dizia muitas vezes às minhas clientes que as mulheres acreditavam que o luxo era o contrário da pobreza, quando, na realidade, era o oposto da vulgaridade. É na simplicidade que se encontra a elegância. A sua roupa deverá ser a segunda coisa, depois dela, a ser notada. É quando está bem vestida que uma mulher mais se aproxima de estar nua.»

Mademoiselle Chanel nasceu em 1883 e morreu em 1971 na sua suite no Ritz. Foi sepultada no cemitério de Lausanne, na Suiça, sob uma lápide de mármore com cinco cabeças de leão, unindo assim para sempre o seu signo do zodíaco com o seu número talismânico, que representava vento, terra, fogo, água e, acima de tudo, espírito.
Viveu as duas guerras mundiais e a queda da bolsa americana em 1929, factos que provocaram uma alarmante redução no número de encomendas, mas, no entanto, aprendeu a erguer-se aproveitando as necessidades da nova situação económica e social usando, por exemplo, novos tipos de tecidos.
Foi uma mulher enigmática, deslumbrante e eternamente só. Não casou nem teve filhos.
A sua colaboração (ou não) com os nazistas é a parte menos boa do livro sendo contada de modo labiríntico, mas sabemos que depois de terminada a II Guerra Mundial esteve exilada na Suiça por um período de 15 anos.
Seja como for, é impossível não admirar esta mulher na sua coragem, espírito empreendedor e ânsia de escapar à pobreza.
Teve uma vida longa com momentos bons e maus e testou os seus limites.

Coco Chanel pertence àquele grupo, que , à sua maneira, lutou pela igualdade de direitos, liberdades e importância social das mulheres e fê-lo pela moda desenhando uma nova silhueta feminina.

Enchantée, Mademoiselle Chanel!

Profile Image for Rachel Aranda.
881 reviews2,262 followers
May 27, 2018
I knew a bit about Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel before I read this book, but never felt I understood her. She is a respected but controversial figure who knew what she wanted and went for it. I like how Mr. Gortner didn't just ignore the fact she had affairs with married men, possibly had close entanglements with a few women, and was possibly a Nazi spy. I respect that Mr. Gortner didn't shy away from unpleasant events that happened in Mademoiselle Chanel's life like some authors I've read in the past have. Mr. Gortner wrote in what he believed to be the truth, and I can respect him for that. Many people have said he should have written in a more unfavorable light of Coco Chanel but that seems like a personal preference. This is a historical fiction and things are impossible to prove since so much time has passed, so he could write about what he believed to be provable. Mademoiselle Chanel always denied being a Nazi spy and there was never enough proof to convict her. She was such a private women that I'm not sure the truth will ever fully be known about her as she didn't keep a journal or many confidants. In truth, I'm not sure what to believe about her even but I do know a few things. I admire her tenacity to work for what she wanted in her life (success and independence) but her biggest downfall had to be pride. She made a lot of decisions based on emotions and sometimes it cost her dearly. This book isn't a biography but I feel like I can understand Mademoiselle Chanel better than I have before. How an individual feels about her is left up to them in the end.

I must be honest and say that if I had read this book I might have given a lower rating. I borrowed a print copy, at first, but gave up on reading it as I didn't have time to read a long book. Instead of giving up, I decided to try listening to the audio version since I liked the narrator's voice. Rebecca Gibel, the narrator, really made a difference for me. Her narration kept me listening to this book for hours and drew me into the story more than reading it did. Hopefully, in the future, I can listen to another book that she narrates. I'd recommend the audio over the print version as it truly brings the emotion from the characters out.
Profile Image for Melinda.
1,020 reviews
July 26, 2016
Gortner sketches a well rounded read on the legendary Coco Chanel. He covers her heartbreaking childhood, romantic involvements, business ventures to her questionable involvement as a Nazi collaborator. Chanel was as mysterious in life as she remains after her passing. Gortner doles out information causing the reader to ask poignant questions as well as reach their own conclusions, assumptions. A wonderful gateway encouraging further examination of this enigmatic reticent fashion icon, and woman.

Profile Image for Nicole~.
198 reviews244 followers
August 30, 2016
3.5 stars
Long ropes of pearls and a "little black dress" - today key staples in every fashion-conscious woman's wardrobe - are the iconoclastic items originated in 1926 from the visionary mind of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, the intriguing heroine of C.W. Gortner's new novel.

The semi-fictional imaginings of the woman who made the most influential impression on 20th century's couture - the seductress and revolutionary stylist who made modern women's fashion easy to wear - are told through the ventriloquized point of view of 'Coco' Chanel. It is a drama of the magnetic allure that compelled women to mimic her, to want to bond with her as if to be in her skin; and the most prominent men of the times to ardently seek and possess her.

Some engaging parts of the novel, besides les affaires d'amour, include the amazing history behind Chanel No.5, the fragrance which became Chanel's most identifying signature: a secret extraction that derived, interestingly, from a scent created personally for the Russian Czarina executed in 1918.
Wafting in its own intrigue, Chanel No. 5 was mired in controversial legalities over its marketing. In the book, controlling rights of the 'most expensive parfum in the world' are treated with injustice to Coco on the part of her financial backers, the Wertheimers, but reeks pungently of anti-Semitism, a topic which author Gortner did not balance well. However, the creative rational for Chanel's sleeping with the enemy during Germany's occupation of France holds a degree of plausibility, if not an amusingly colorful yarn.

I had only a skirting knowledge of Chanel before reading this novel where the story of the couture sometimes overwhelmed the maker, piquing an interest to read further on the famous couturière. Here are some recommended background reads for those of similar minds:

Mademoiselle Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History>
The Secret of Chanel No.5>
Profile Image for Kate Quinn.
Author 38 books23.3k followers
April 11, 2015
Kate Quinn
Gortner writes such wonderful women. He's written a lot of queens, and fashion designer Coco Chanel might seem like a departure for him, but she isn't, really - this woman is a queen of fashion, and every bit the powerhouse of personality to match an empress. Ambitious, ruthless, workaholic, and fierce - she'd be easy to dislike, but I adored her. The ending is unexpected and triumphant.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,738 reviews1,468 followers
May 24, 2015
Before reading: I highly recommend Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life, but since I find the woman so interesting I just have to read more.

In conclusion:

Two books on exactly the same topic. The above is non-fiction, while Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner is historical fiction. I have given both four stars. They are both easy to read, interesting, engaging and stick to known facts. However, we cannot today know for sure why Chanel stayed in Paris during the Nazi occupation 1940 through the late summer of 1944. There are several plausible reasons - business, release of her nephew taken as a German prisoner of war or love. Actually, isn’t this how life often is; how often is there only one motive? Do I think she supported Nazi ideology? No, I do not. What you get in Gortner’s book, and not in the other are fictional dialogs. Gortner’s basically concludes, except for a very short Afterword, with the events of WW2. Coco Chanel, born in 1883, died in 1971. Neither book details the legal proceedings concerning her possible collaboration with the Nazis. Both books give the same perspective on her affiliations. I would like to find a book that focuses on her ten years in Switzerland and the law court proceedings. Gortner’s book hops quickly from the war to 1954 when she offered a new collection in Paris and then to her death.

Both books cover her entire life, although Gortner’s enhances the story of Chanel’s trip to Madrid, Spain, in 1944; giving the book a final punch, a spy-story denouement. The title in fact forewarns this; it was only Churchill who called Coco “Mademoiselle Chanel”. Perhaps the spy aspect is a bit over-dramatized.

Both books accurately detail life events, down to the plants and décor of her La Pausa mansion! Her loss of every man she loved is clearly depicted as well as here lesbian affairs, her couturier, her drug addiction, her artistic friends and her philosophy of life.

The audiobook is narrated by Rebecca Gibel. The story is told by Coco, using the first person point of view. She is telling her own life story from the perspective of an older woman. You don’t feel that she is chatting with you but rather as a woman writing a book about her own life. There is a difference. There is humor. I didn’t love the narration because I felt Gibel over-emphasized Coco’s strength rather than her unhappiness, her loneliness, her continual search for love, her insecurity.

I see Chanel as a fascinating woman and I love her style.

Here is my review of the other book: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Profile Image for Patricia Williams.
579 reviews130 followers
December 27, 2018
I loved this story of Coco Chanel and her braveness. She was a true free spirit who would do anything for her friends and her family. I have always admired her designs and this is a very complete story of her life. It took me a while to read this book but it is holiday season and lots going on but I wanted to read it all and I"m so glad I did. Will definitely read more from this author.
Profile Image for Erika Robuck.
Author 11 books1,067 followers
March 25, 2015

"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!”
Profile Image for Sana.
105 reviews60 followers
February 24, 2020
هرچقدر بگم این کتاب عالیه کم گفتم 😍👌🏼
Profile Image for Jenny Q.
1,001 reviews54 followers
August 2, 2015
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!
Profile Image for Natasa.
1,194 reviews
January 15, 2019
I really enjoyed this historical novel written in the first person. Excellent writing about an intriguing subject. The author made Coco Chanel come alive on the page. The in depth look at what it was like to live during that time was fascinating. A page turner, recommend to all those who love fashion, complex women and Coco Chanel. A favorite, for sure. Full review coming soon on my blog: https://poetryofreading.blogspot.com/...
Profile Image for Carmo.
654 reviews467 followers
August 16, 2022
De Gabrielle Chanel sabia o que havia visto em alguns filmes. Esta biografia acrescenta bastante ao quase cliché romântico da menina abandonada que vai para o orfanato e, contrariando todas as previsões, vem a triunfar no mundo árduo e a consolidar o seu nome de forma indelével.
Tudo isto aconteceu de facto, Gabrielle, a mãe e os irmãos foram abandonados pelo pai e deixados numa situação bastante precária. Com a morte da mãe os irmãos seriam separados e Gabrielle dava entrada num orfanato ao cuidado de freiras. Não foi totalmente negativo, aprendeu um ofício, aprendeu a ser disciplinada e teve apoio e incentivo para seguir a profissão de costureira. Nunca as freiras sonhariam onde iria chegar o nome Chanel.
As dificuldades começaram logo na saída do orfanato, mas há que tirar o chapéu a Coco (aliás, chapéus foi o seu primeiro negócio, e bem-sucedido), a jovem era determinada, confiava nas suas capacidades e nunca se desviou um centímetro das suas convicções.
Para chegar onde chegou tinha que ser perfecionista, exigia empenho na mesma medida aos seus funcionários chegando a ser tirana e, estando com neura (e estava muita vez) descarregava a fúria no pessoal. Reconhecia o erro para si própria, mas não o admitia perante os outros, muito menos pedia desculpa. Viveu rodeada da nata da sociedade (que a lisonjeava, mas não lhe aceitava as origens) mas não teve muitos amigos verdadeiros, e até com os melhores os conflitos eram comuns. Teve um rol de amantes mas um só amor. Quando este morreu quase colapsou, nunca o esqueceu e a sua falta acompanhá-la-ia até ao fim da vida.
Passou os anos da SGM em Paris vivendo do rendimento do mítico nº 5, envolveu-se com um oficial alemão e usou a lei nazi contra os judeus para tentar contornar um conflito numa associação que a desfavorecia. Esta conduta levá-la-ia ao exílio na Suíça. Morreu aos 87 anos.

Estava longe de ser perfeita…quem o é?

Para as suas criações tenho adjetivos mais lisonjeiros.
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
733 reviews1,778 followers
February 9, 2017
Chanel... the name has always conjured up images in my mind of sophistication and classic elegance. It was very interesting discovering the woman behind the couture label. I think she was a very talented designer, although, I didn't really like her as a person. I enjoyed the first part of the novel and it would've been an easy 5 star if I hadn't felt like there was more to her actions during WWII. It felt like Gortner 'sugar coated' over her involvement with the Nazis... the reasons given for her involvement with them just didn't seem to fit. She was definitely presented as a woman that would do anything to promote herself and her business. This novel was very well written and I did really enjoyed it. It's apparent throughout that Gortner is a great admirer of hers... my only wish is that it had been written from a more unbiased perspective. 3.5 stars.
1,591 reviews87 followers
July 23, 2016
Knowing very little about Coco Chanel, I can’t evaluate the accuracy of her depiction in this fictionalized autobiography. I can comment on the writing which struck me as bloodless. I expect personal insights, intimate emotions as I listen to a person recount the story of her life. But, the tone of this novel was distant, as if told by a stranger.
Profile Image for bookaholic.
27 reviews19 followers
April 26, 2021
زندگی نامه از ژانرهای مورد علاقه منه ، چون واقعیه و تاثیر گذار .

جملات زیبا :
+ حالا که خوشبختی در رسیدن به من تعلل میکرد ، من باید با کار سخت و تلاش زیاد آن را به سمت خود میکشیدم

+ هرزنی ذاتا منحصر به فرده، چه لزومی داره لباساش منحصر به فرد باشن؟وقتی همین که لباس رو بپوشه اون رو منحصر به فرد میکنه. من لباسام طوری طراحی شدن که خود شما اول دیده بشید نه لباساتون
Profile Image for Lisa.
398 reviews53 followers
June 28, 2021
3.5 Stars

My friend Anne lent this book to me many months ago. It moved to the top of my pile last week when I told her I hadn't read it yet and she replied, "Read the damn book!" So there you have it.

This was an entertaining read. Having zero fashion sense, I knew absolutely nothing about Coco Chanel other than she had a perfume that I saw advertised on TV when I was a kid. Anne, a former European history major assured me that the facts were all accurate; so I could let go of keeping track of what to look up and just enjoy the story.

Chanel was a dynamo of a woman. Starting from nothing, with a skill for sewing and design, a burning ambition, and a ferocious work ethic, she became a fashion icon. She did have financial backing and support from 2 important men in her life which got her started. Chanel's vision positioned her to dress women as their roles changed over a number of decades. I have never given much thought to how the way we live influences our clothes and how our clothing can influence the way we live, very interesting to ponder. Chanel also was one of the first women to create a successful business empire, overturning social conventions of the times.

I enjoyed meeting the artists, writers, dancers, and other creative people that surrounded Chanel during her lifetime. This novel sent me googling photos of Chanel's fashions and short biographies of her friends whose names were new to me.

Gortner's writing is good, and it is obvious that he admires Chanel both professionally and personally.

The part that was murky to me was Chanel's involvement with the Nazi's in occupied Paris. Further research shows that this is unclear to historians as well. The world may never know the truth about this topic.

Be inspired. As Coco Chanel says,"If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.
Profile Image for Tiago | MrsMargotBlog.
154 reviews26 followers
February 7, 2017
I venture to say that it was one of my best readings ever, an extremely well written book with a translation as well written, rich in vocabulary and so beautiful that we easily get involved in every word.
As a fan I am from Coco Chanel and knowing some stories from her life, I loved every page, every story! An excellent research paper and a so good composition of the story that makes me believe that everything that happened in these pages about the life of Chanel, are absolute truths, even if they are not the author convinces us well. It's not a simple biography, it's a romanticized book that entangles us with a fluid reading, despite its historical elements is not something that weighs and makes it massive and we can get to know a little of the woman she was, mysterious, obstinate and determined. My fascination for her has only grown and everything I can say in this review doesn't live up to the story, which is much richer and I recommend everyone to read it.
And in relation to the author I knew by name only, I had never read any of his works, I was very curious to read other of his books, his enormous talent in writing and his research work, despite historical romances not being my favorite genre, I feel compelled to give opportunity to his works.

Atrevo-me a dizer que foi uma das minhas melhores leituras, de sempre, um livro extremamente bem escrito e com uma tradução tão bem escrita, como há muito tempo não lia, rica em vocabulário e tão bonita que facilmente nos envolvemos em cada palavra.
Como fã que sou da Coco Chanel e conhecendo algumas histórias da vida dela, adorei cada página, cada história! Um excelente trabalho de pesquisa e uma composição da história tão boa que me faz acreditar que tudo o que aconteceu nestas páginas sobre a vida de Chanel, sejam verdades absolutas, mesmo que elas não o sejam o autor convence-nos bem disso. Não é uma simples biografia, é um livro romanceado que nos enreda com a sua leitura fluída, apesar dos seus elementos históricos não é algo que pese e que a torne massuda e podemos ficar a conhecer um pouco da mulher que ela foi, misteriosa, obstinada e determinada. O meu fascínio por ela só cresceu e tudo o que possa dizer nesta review faz pouco jus à história, que é muito mais rica e recomendo a todos a sua leitura.
E em relação ao autor que eu conhecia apenas pelo nome, nunca tinha lido nenhuma das suas obras, fiquei com muita curiosidade de ler outros dos seus livros, pelo seu enorme talento na escrita e com o trabalho de pesquisa que faz, apesar de romances históricos não serem bem o meu género preferido, sinto-me compelida a dar oportunidade às obras dele.
Profile Image for Shaghayegh.
298 reviews78 followers
August 14, 2021
شنل برخواسته از خاکستر دختری فقیر، مثل ققنوسی که هربار با پذیرش ناکامی‌هایش می‌سوزد و دوباره از خاکستر خودش بلند می‌شود.
بدون شک گابریل شنل، یا همانند چیزی که در خاطره‌ها ثبت شده، کوکو شنل، نماد زنی مقاوم است که بی‌مهابا نظراتش را به گوش همه می‌رساند و از متفاوت بودن نمی‌ترسد.
خوندن این کتاب تجربه متفاوتی بود، و چقدر دلچسب بود که تو این دوره خوندمش.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,612 reviews2,580 followers
April 23, 2015
Gortner, a writer of Tudor-era mysteries, turns to more recent history with this novel about Coco Chanel. Raised by a rural laundrywoman and a peddler, the Chanel children moved to an orphanage after their mother died and their father abandoned them. Living first with nuns and then with an aunt, Gabrielle Chanel started helping with the family millinery business and became an expert seamstress. Restyling herself as Coco, she designed hats, amassed wealth and elite artist friends, and eventually opened her own Paris fashion studio. As World War II begins, she ponders her legacy and love affairs gone wrong. (The above was my summary for Bookmarks magazine.)

Like The Dream Lover (Elizabeth Berg’s novel about George Sand), this makes the mistake of being too comprehensive – detailing every business venture and every love affair, such that parts become a real chronological slog (though here, strangely, the ending feels very sudden). I always associate Chanel with the 1950s-60s, so it was interesting for me to learn that she was actually born in the 1880s and experienced both world wars. Two of her main love affairs were with Englishmen, but she remained quintessentially French. (Also like the Sand novel, Gortner posits that Chanel had at least one relationship with a woman as well – though he doesn’t seem to suggest she was bisexual.)

If you have a particular interest in fashion, I would certainly recommend this. General readers of historical fiction, you might prefer to pass.

Related reading: Chanel makes a cameo appearance in The Pink Suit by N.M. Kelby.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,961 reviews485 followers
December 8, 2015
Darn! This was a good one, but then everything C.W.Gortner writes is absolutely divine. Men adored her, women wanted to wear her clothes, and Paris was unsure of what to make of her. However, Chanel managed to take her place in fashion history.

So why not a five?

Chanel's story isn't without it's complications and even I have to admit that I was so sucked into this strong personality that Gortner illustrated, of a woman who didn't conform, that I was a little taken aback by the utter stupidity of Chanel's actions during WWII. I really felt it hard to stomach the wide eyed victim mentality. As much as Gortner tries to vindicate Chanel, I have to admit that he whitewashed her suspected collaboration with the Nazis. Besides,there is too much evidence in the book that Chanel herself was influenced by those she socialized with and experiences with business partners that fuelled her own anti-semitism feelings to convince me otherwise.

I realize that the above point is debatable even these many years since and that could be surmised as "friends in high places" taking care of the designer. I will say that I do appreciate Gortner trying to take readers to that darkness, but I am disappointed he held himself back.
Profile Image for Stephanie Thornton.
Author 10 books1,321 followers
May 2, 2015
Everyone has heard of Coco Chanel, creator of the little black dress and the bronzed Riviera tan, but it wasn't until I was teaching European history that I heard bits and pieces of her tangled history with the Nazis. Fortuitously, that was around the same time that C.W. Gortner announced his upcoming novel on the famous fashion maven. I may have had to wait a year for the book to hit the shelves, but Mademoiselle Chanel did not disappoint!

Coco Chanel isn't a soft, cuddly heroine that needs a lot of rescuing, but instead a prickly diva with a heart of mostly-gold. There were several spots where my heart broke for her, and I winced as some of her travails left her scarred, even as I cheered as she soldiered on through two World Wars and the Great Depression. Even more than that, I adored all the cameos by famous people: Winston Churchill, Salvador Dali, and Picasso all have their moments in the spotlight, which truly fleshed out the tumultuous times that Coco Chanel lived in. Even more, I loved that this book didn't shy away from the darker side of Chanel's life during WWII. Coco wasn't a perfect woman by any means, but C.W. Gortner has rendered her fully human in this depiction: warts, pearls, and all.
Profile Image for RoseMary Achey.
1,357 reviews
October 21, 2015
The writing was acceptable in this historical fiction based on the true life of Coco Chanel. Coco was a brilliant designer but not a very nice person. The whole 1920's Paris party scene has never been a favorite of mine in literature-fortunately this novel goes beyond that period.
524 reviews7 followers
January 11, 2015
What a terrific novel! Written in first person, the book captures a very plausible voice for Coco Chanel. She is not romanticized and not always likable, but she is always fascinating and her achievements are impressive. Recommended!

I received an ARC through Goodreads Giveaways and have given a fair review. I'm pretty stingy with my 5 star ratings, but this novel warrants one.
Profile Image for Marisa Fernandes.
Author 2 books41 followers
April 26, 2017
Fãs de Chanel-mulher, fãs de Chanel-marca, fãs de moda, curiosos apenas:

Aqui está um livro, ainda que romanceado, sobre a vida e obra de Gabrielle Chanel que vale mesmo a pena ler. O autor, C.W.Gortner, é um fascinado assumido de Chanel e isso nota-se perfeitamente na qualidade do romance que nos apresenta, indo para além da vida da original e irreverente Gabrielle e apresentando-nos, nos momentos certos, as inovações trazidas para o mundo da moda: roupa elegante e confortável, o preto como soma de todas as cores, o perfume Chanel n.º 5, entre outros, só para dar alguns exemplos.

Esta é, de facto, uma leitura que nos enriquece. Aprende-se muito sobre Chanel, a mulher e a obra porque, na verdade, são apenas uma só. Chegamos ao fim e ficamos com Chanel entranhada em nós. Independente, corajosa, criativa. Audaz, forte, inovadora. Uma mulher à frente do seu tempo.

Finalmente, cumpre-me acrescentar que é o segundo romance que leio sobre Gabrielle Chanel (o primeiro foi "Coco" de Cristina Sánchez-Andrade) e, apesar de ter adorado o outro, acho que este consegue ser muito mais completo...!
Profile Image for Lilisa.
413 reviews59 followers
June 8, 2015
I didn’t know much about Coco Chanel other than she was a highly successful fashion designer in her day and age, her successful Chanel No. 5 line of perfume is still wildly popular today and the fact that she made the simple black dress the best elegant statement a woman could ever make – more so with a string of simple pearls. C. W. Gortner’s novel captures the essence of Gabrielle Chanel – her drive, stubbornness, vulnerabilities, fear of loneliness and her astounding gift of simple lines and cuts of fabric that draped the human body accentuating its form and figure rather than detracting from it. Her talent, coupled with her unerring ability to attract the men she did, who helped finance her business, catapulted her into becoming one of the greatest fashion designers of all time. Her road to fame was a tough one – having been abandoned by her father following the death of her mother, growing up in a convent orphanage with her sisters, making her way into the adult world on her own as well as living through two world wars. C. W. Gortner has done an amazing job capturing the persona of Coco Chanel in all its facets. We see Coco at her strongest and we see her at her weakest – moments when she is utterly devastated and in total despair after losing the love of her life – Boy. She was no saint and she wasn’t necessarily likable, but we admire her and we cheer her on. It is quite amazing that Gabrielle, who adopted the name of Coco, overcame the odds and by the combination of talent, ambition, hard work and magnetism became the success story of her generation. The indelible mark she has made on the fashion and perfume industries lives on even today. A definite recommended read.
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