Rebecca's Reviews > Mademoiselle Chanel

Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner
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bookshelves: read-via-edelweiss, historical-fiction, war-fiction

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.
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Reading Progress

January 8, 2015 – Shelved
January 8, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
April 5, 2015 – Started Reading
April 5, 2015 – Shelved as: read-via-edelweiss
April 5, 2015 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
April 7, 2015 –
page 117
April 14, 2015 – Shelved as: war-fiction
April 14, 2015 – Finished Reading

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