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Mademoiselle Chanel

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  10,042 ratings  ·  1,070 reviews
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.

Hardcover, 406 pages
Published March 17th 2015 by William Morrow
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  10,042 ratings  ·  1,070 reviews

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Petra X insecurity is paranoia
1 star - I was quite interested in reading this because according to Kirkus Reviews 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 with her nod to surrealism, no doubt inspired by her artist friends who included Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali. No, I was interested to read ...more
Tasha Alexander
Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 durin
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
"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 fee
"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 1
Rachel Aranda
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, owned
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 pas ...more
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 ventri
Dec 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
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 ...more
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio, hf, 2015-read, france, audible
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 sum
Patricia Williams
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Erika Robuck
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing

"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!”
Jenny Q
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 so
Kate Quinn
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
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: ...more
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 he ...more
Jul 23, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Thyago | MrsMargotBlog
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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,
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 ...more
Stephanie Thornton
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 lo
RoseMary Achey
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-borrowed
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
Kathy Moberg
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
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.
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 ...more
Catherine McKenzie
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a tour de force. This reads as if Coco Chanel herself was reflecting back on her life. Funny, thoughtful and unflinching, this is Gortner's best novel to date. Highly Recommend. ...more
Daisy Mae
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5 little black dresses out of 5

This book was everything I hoped it would be, and more. I was an avid fan of Chanel fashion, but to learn of the woman behind it all, who literally built the modern day woman as we know it... I can't possibly feel more loyal to another name.

The story begins in Gabrielle Chanel's poverty-stricken childhood, a hard-headed and ambitious young girl from the start. Her persistence, though at times selfish, and obvious talent propelled her to a life so far removed from
Julianne Douglas
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What happens when an author known for his convincing, dramatically compelling depictions of the sixteenth century tries his hand at the twentieth? He does a superb job! C. W. Gortner, who has penned vivid fictional portraits of Juana la Loca, Catherine de Medici, Isabella of Castile, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I, reconstructs the life and ambition of early twentieth century icon Coco Chanel in his latest novel, MADEMOISELLE CHANEL. With the attention to detail and vigorous narrative drive readers ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
The luxurious Chanel brand is iconic -- the perfume, the fashion, its founder -- and I'm surprised Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel hasn't been featured in a historical novel before. Her hist fic debut comes from C.W. Gortner, whose sublime The Queen’s Vow humanized Isabella, and this novel has set the high water mark for any future reads that attempt to tackle the notorious Chanel.

Born at the end of the 19th century in abject poverty, Gabrielle Chanel was turned over to a convent where she mastered sewi
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Like every girl, and some guys, I've always wanted to own a piece of Chanel. (Mine is a gorgeous scarf.. so far) However, I did not know much about Coco herself other than that her and I share a birthday. She was an absolutely fascinating woman who came from nothing, worked hard, and completely changed women's fashion.

I could scarcely put this book down. At its conclusion, I was so satisfied, I felt like I needed a cigarette - and I don't smoke! Coco Chanel herself surely would have approved. C.
Jul 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Duh, it's a C W Gortner, of course I'm going to order it!

And of course having just finished reading Mademoiselle Chanel, I have found myself enchanted once again. I found this book completely engaging. I think it was extremely well written, covering all of Coco Chanel's life yet written so that you read it as if you were in the rooms, living and experiencing everything with her. There was just enough of each piece of her life to ensnare you in what was going to happen next, yet you never feel li
interesting semi biographical novel about coco chanel charting her rags to riches fame from poverty and the convent to being the leading light of the fashion world. I know hides away from some of the questionable events during WW2 but early parts paints a picture but also have to bear in mind this fashion icon is the author's idol so maybe slightly biased. ...more
Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)
This was the New York Ladies Fine Dining and Fiction Book Club selection for May. To read the full review and hear about our evening, please visit Lit. Wit. Wine & Dine. ...more
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52 weeks, 52 books: Week 2015.7: Mademoiselle Chanel 2 49 Mar 17, 2015 09:56AM  
Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 2 3 Mar 03, 2015 11:52PM  

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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 for more information.

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