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Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  2,603 ratings  ·  223 reviews
In Coco Chanel, Justine Picardie peels away the layers of romance and myth surrounding the legend of Coco Chanel, revealing the true history of the incredible woman who shaped modern fashion and created an empire of haute couture. Picardie's unprecedented research illuminates Chanel’s path from little-known seamstress to the aristocracy of style in this stunning look at th ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 21st 2010 by It Books (first published November 1st 2009)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  2,603 ratings  ·  223 reviews

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Rebecca Grace
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
The author's sycophantic tone nearly turned me off the book in the first chapter. Yet, as fascinated as I am with women's studies and the cultural changes of the early 20th century, AND French history, AND art history, AND Russian revolutionary history, I've grown enthralled with the story of this fascinating life. Millions of girls were born in poor houses and raised in convents in the late 19th century, and most of them lived and died in the squalor and obscurity of their origins. Somehow Gabr ...more
Lisa Rogers
Nov 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: stopped-reading
I wanted to like this book but it just didn't make sense. A biographer should know better than to throw all her research at the reader, bit by unimportant bit, and then leave the reader to sort it out. The author is content to tell Coco Chanel's story by listing the things she says about herself, what others say about her, then never clears up the incongruence by telling us what her research turned up on the matter. As a result, I know less about Chanel than when I began! The photos are small, p ...more
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
The book I’m going to review is “Coco Chanel:The Legend and the Life,”And I think from what I read in this amazing book,Chanel should not be called a "happy child", because her father Albert, is a businessman, which seems a bit grand, but he is actually a street vendor. Her mother came from a peasant family and worked as a maid in a rich family. And she lose her family when she was 6 years old. But fortunate, god give her adroit hands, And she is skillful in spinning. Which open the door for thi ...more
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biographies
It took me a while to decide on the rating I should give this book. It is an interesting well-written book.. So why two stars? When I was looking for a book about Chanel I was looking to find information and inspiration, as a young professional woman, a designer in a male-dominated industry I wanted to hear her voice, to understand her creative vision, to learn more about her business decisions and how a woman from a plane background managed to create an empire in an era when women had to fight ...more
Miriam Cihodariu
Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, france
I liked the incursion into the actual biography of Gabrielle Chanel, including the way the author tries to trace her steps through the web of fake data the woman liked to provide about herself. A true drama queen, the fashion legend always changed the facts whenever talking about her past, so her actual origins and details about her childhood (or her actual age) have always been pretty elusive.

The book was criticized for being too descriptive (bordering on boring). While it's indeed not in my st
Apr 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book tried to strike a dreamy tone and just ended up being a boring disappointment. This book commits various transgressions. It begins with a long-winded description of Chanel's rooms instead of with the topic of the biography, Chanel herself--involved descriptions of inanimate objects can never replace the human character or historical figure. Such a chapter is then followed by tall tales woven by Chanel herself, hearsay, and supposition. Those who read biography typically want facts, and ...more
Kate Snow
Dec 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: biography
Like many other reviewers who gave this a poor rating, I wanted to like it. However, the book was rambling, lacking in facts and I got no insight into the creative side of Chanel's life (apart from her creativity with her life story). Only at the close of the book was there a glimpse of her at work with her scissors. Hagiography at its worst and disappointing. ...more
May 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
I had to read this for book club and what a chore - it is a white washed piece of crap - poor indexing and it mostly seems to be quotes for two others who attempted to write Chanel's bio. This author does EVERYTHING she can to soften, blur, and confuse Chanel's antisemitism, homophobia, drug use, all round bitchy-ness, and especially the facts about her Perfume and spying. ...more
Love Fool
Feb 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Sleek. Chic. Notoriously guarded. Welcome to the secret world of Gabrielle Chanel.

I LOVE fashion and Chanel is the woman who started it all for me. Chanel is the symbol for class and I wanted to know all about the woman who changed the fashion world. This book was well written and very interesting. I learned so much about Coco I feel like I personally knew her. She is truly amazing.
Ghost of the Library
Chanel as always been - and will remain - an enigma, no matter how many attempts are made, book or movie form, no one will ever get a real understanding of the woman behind the myth.
And frankly that is how it should be...even in an age of massive oversharing of information, some things are best left a secret, a Mademoiselle would have preferred no doubt.

What did i know of Coco before this book? Number 5, her pearl necklaces, her love of fashion, her commitment to elegance and style,
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: girly-stuff
Very insightful and a great escapist read. It tackled uncomfortable topics and didn't gloss over them (such as what happened with her collaborationism in WW2), and it was well balanced with business info too not just personal life tidbits ...more
Ancestral Gaidheal
Why did I read it? I've always had a fascination with this self-made woman, and I remember reading a review of the paperback version of this book on a blog a few years back, and thinking I must read it. When I saw it was available in audio form, I took the opportunity to select it for my commute.

What's it about? It's a factual biography of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, better known as Coco Chanel, the orphaned girl who rose to be one of the most famous names in fashion, if not the most famous; credi
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jun 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: librarybooks
‘Legend is the consecration of fame.’

The name Coco Chanel is synonymous with style. But what of the woman behind the name: what do we know about the woman who designed simple yet sophisticated clothes, practical but elegant bags and shoes, and presented Chanel No 5 perfume to the world?

There is little simple about Coco Chanel. She was born Gabrielle Chanel on 19 August 1883 – a date that she later changed by hand in her passport. Gabrielle Chanel was born in a poorhouse; her parents were unmarri
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
It's probably pretty interesting if you're a huge Chanel fan and/or really into fashion, but I'm neither of these. I guess I'm not the book's target audience! =P That said, it's just a little bit dry. I got tired of hearing how pretty much everything reported about Chanel is up for debate because she lied so much about her life. I realize things were different back then, but the fact that Chanel lied about her life really turned me off to her. (Not that the brand Chanel really cares because it's ...more
Bridget Casey
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, fashion
This book made me an even greater fan of Chanel, but I did not like the author's style at all. I found it quite convoluted and it was often difficult to keep track of characters as Picardie went on tangents about their personal histories, irrelevant to their relationship with Chanel. The narration kind of jerks and jolts the reader along, consequently the book lacks fluidity. The collection of photographs is impressive, but they're placed all over the place and more often than not, completely un ...more
Mar 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Fascinating to me because I knew so little about the life of Coco Chanel. But I have to wonder what, if anything, this book adds to the literature on Chanel. The author did not actually get to interview her subject, as did several of the biographers who came before her. She spends a great deal of time telling us what biographer X or biographer Y had to say about this or that murky period in the life of Chanel. But she doesn't make anything any less murky. Also, her strategy of presenting Coco's ...more
Feb 10, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wish that I hadn't persisted with this book. For a relatively short book (with pictures!) it was a very slow read. It was frustrating, leaden and inconsequential. Chanel blurred her past so successfully that large swathes of the book were essentially saying 'but of course, nobody really knows...' OVER AND OVER AGAIN. ...more
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting as I had not read a book about Coco Chanel before. There have been many books written about her so I may have to check some of them out. She was a fascinating, independent (to some extent) woman with great fashion sense and she knew what women wanted. She was a shrewd business especially when it came to her clothing and fashion designs. Men did dominate her financially to some extent especially when it came to her famous perfume Chanel No. 5. She became rich from the sale of her ...more
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
I loved learning about coco Chanel but I felt like as much as I learned about her I also did not, if that makes sense. I wish I could’ve learned more about the way she thought, her inner life.
I liked the book for its content, not necessarily writing style.
I enjoyed the quotes from coco Chanel and the fact that the narrative covered her whole life.

O yes, now that I have skimmed some other reviews, I realized what it was that was bothering me-- there was so much focus on all of her affairs, and ba
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Long, exhausting, mysterious. Such was the life of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.

Chanel was a master of editing - her clothes, her friendships, and her origin story. No one knows quite where she grew up and if her nephew was really her son.

The author does a good job with the material she had but it left me wanting more. I wanted fire and story, instead, I had a long buffet of tepid love affairs focusing on the “who” but not the why. And anecdotes!

Intriguing read but I want to learn more. It feels l
Mariia Manko
Jun 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
For me it is always interesting to read biographies of people who reached their point of success in art. It is something that gives me real power. Something who you really are. Being unique is finding your mission in life. I wonder how strong you can be and how sensitive ! I am talking about Coco Chanel. She took all the disappointments deeply in her life. How they influenced on her creations? And she never stopped creating ...her dresses is she. You are what you create. She left for us a good e ...more
Shirley K
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Coco Chanel was definitely one of the pioneers of chic fashion that we see today. Being an avid fan of hers, I was pleasantly surprised at how her life was described. Its a must read for anyone who wants to get into fashion or even someone who appreciates feminine elegance and grace.
Audrey Gorden
First and foremost, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Being as familiar with fashion as I am, it was in fact an honor to go that deep into Chanel's life by reading this book. By reading this book the readers can not only get a sense of how the major label "Chanel" began, but this book takes us deep into Coco's thought process and emotions; a sort of behind-the-scenes look.

A main reason why I enjoyed the book is that we as the readers are taken back to Chanel's early days, and we realize that her
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Coco Chanel led a very legendary life, which led to a very legendary career. I liked this book a lot because it showed us the real Coco Chanel even though; most of the things the fashion queen told reporters were lies. This book showed Coco Chanel’s strong points as well as her weaknesses. At the age of 12, Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, now known as Coco Chanel, was shipped off to an orphanage with her older sister Julie. Their mother died at the age of 33 and their father refused to take care of th ...more
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although the book as a whole has a lot of details about Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel's life, I found the journalism very, very poor. The book seems to have been written based on emotions, not facts. Many sentences are finished with "Of course, the truth is blurred...", "It's a gray area" etc. Shouldn't the biographer have come to conclusions about these various facts and not leave the reader wondering?

Also, the writer is immensely biased towards Chanel. This might have stemmed from the help Picardie
Mar 13, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trash
This is no biography. This is a HUGE disappointment. I wonder how this book made it to "Official Biography". Merely a pile of unfinished research paper draft, or trash, if you ask me. If you were to write a biography of someone like Chanel, at least dig up some truth. Keep quoting other people who interviewed Chanel and merely putting down the various versions of stories told by her is NOT QUALIFIED as a biography!
The only thing I learned about Chanel in this book is that she told nothing but li
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
I didn't love this book and I can't tell if it's due to the author's writing style or due to the fact that so little concrete facts are known about Coco Chanel's life, thanks to her tendency to stretch the truth and contradict herself. To be honest it's probably the latter rather than the author. I bought this book after doing a walking tour about Chanel in Paris. For me personally, the book didn't add much to what I learned on the tour. I would probably have been better off with a book on the H ...more
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
Disappointing. From watching a documentary on Coco Chanel the image of Chanel I got was an independent, smart, and successful business woman who redefined women's fashion; so I was looking forward to reading this book. But the image of Chanel you get from the book is that, yes she was into fashion but what she was really known for were her many affairs. I get annoyed when a book about a woman mainly focuses more on her love life than her successes. I get it, Chanel slept around a lot and didn't ...more
I really enjoyed learning about the life of Coco Chanel & this is a comprehensive history. At some points though the writing was just too over the top for me, clutching at straws to make associations that weren't really there. I think the worst one for me was ''Give them chains. Women adore chains.' Perhaps she was being characteristically provocative; or possibly this was as close as she could get to an admission that she had not stopped yearning for the links that bind a woman to a man'. I mea ...more
Annie Oosterwyk
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Why is it that what makes a person so amazing, also makes them difficult to be around? I probably would not have lasted five minutes in a room with Chanel, but she is fascinating beyond belief. I am still floored, thinking of all the important and influential people she surrounded herself with and the history she lived through. Her clothes are nothing that would suit me, but when the author talked about trying them on and the freedom of movement she felt, I was intrigued. I love that Chanel got ...more
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