“My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”
~ Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel
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.
Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner
Published by William Morrow (March 17, 2015)
Genre: Literary Fiction/Historical Fiction/Biographical Novel
Format: Hardcover, 406 pages
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“Simplicity,” I said, “is true elegance. A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed. Her clothing should be seen only after she herself is.”
I confess to little knowledge of the life of Gabriella Bonheur Chanel aka Coco Chanel. The knowledge I do have is the credit given Chanel for the little black dress, pearls, and Chanel No. 5. Hoping to learn more about her world, I visited my local library and checked out a copy of Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner.
Gortner is best known for his historical novels set in the 16th century about famous women of the time period. How would Gortner handle the jump from the 16th to the 20th century? Incredibly well.
Writing the story of Chanel’s rise in the Paris fashion district likely didn’t present Gortner with many difficulties. With a background in the fashion industry, he brings to the page the tiny details of design, construction, and retailing.
As always, Gortner’s research is meticulously performed recreating the poverty Chanel grew up in as well as how that poverty shaped her later in life. Through the lack of the needs for living as a child made Chanel into a woman not to be undone or owned. Gortner manages to show this while at the same time sharing her questioning about why she felt this way.
Those readers who enjoy stories about important women in history will love Gortner’s Mademoiselle Chanel, who is also an important figure in the fashion history. In my opinion, reading such well-researched history through fiction is an enjoyable read. Reading it through the pen of C.W. Gortner is delicious!
Meet the Author
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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