“My hands reflect who I am. I see in them the struggle that has always existed between the humble girl I once was and the legend I deliberately created to hide my heart. Who is Coco Chanel?”
Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner
Published March 17, 2015 by William-Morrow/HarperCollins
Format: paperback; 400 pages
Also From This Author: The Spymaster Chronicles, The Last Queen
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My Rating: 4/5
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 became one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century.
Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to an 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 designer 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.
I dove into this novel having no previous knowledge about Coco Chanel, other than recognizing her status as the most influential fashion designer of the 20th century. I was quickly captivated by her story, which was so heartbreaking yet inspirational at the same time. Although Mademoiselle Chanel is a work of fiction, it follows the major events in Coco Chanel’s life, from growing up as an orphan in a convent to losing loved one after loved one, to risking her life in secret operations during World War II. It instills feelings of hope, love, fear, suspense, and guilt, and I was surprised at how easily it captivated me.
My favorite part about this novel was the character of Coco Chanel. The voice that Gortner created for her felt impressively real. It was effortless for me to imagine Coco spewing off her declarations to people who doubted her and also speaking words of love and encouragement to her closest friends and family members. When she felt betrayed, so did I. When she suffered loss and pain, I wanted to be the friend who comforted her. Even if you are like me and have no interest in fashion, that will not keep you from enjoying and connecting to this fictional retelling of Coco Chanel’s life.
Read This Book If…:
…you love historical fiction, especially involving romance and/or a WWII atmosphere.
…you’re inspired by strong female pioneers.
…you enjoy reading novels set in France.
…you’re looking for a main character who has a real voice and is unabashed in speaking her mind.
I’m reviewing Mademoiselle Chanel as part of a blog tour hosted by France Book Tours. Please click on the banner to see a list of other bloggers participating in the tour!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.W. Gortner is the international bestselling author of six historical novels, translated in over twenty-five languages to date. His new novel, Mademoiselle Chanel, traces the tumultuous rise to fame of iconic fashion designer, Coco Chanel. In 2016, Random House will publish his eighth novel, Vatican Princess, about Lucrezia Borgia. Raised in Spain and a long-time resident of the Bay Area, C.W. is also dedicated to companion animal rescue from overcrowded shelters.
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Open to US only:
5 printed copies
+ 1 beautiful, handcrafted beaded bracelet
inspired by Coco’s black-and-white signature colors
and camellia design