Sunday, April 5, 2015

Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel by C. W. Gortner

Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel. C. W. Gortner. William Morrow. Copyright 2015. Pb. 416 pp. ISBN #: 9780062356406.

Book received from France Book Tours for review:

Famous artists frequently refuse to be defined, classified, or placed in society’s tidy box of approval.  Coco Chanel, renowned designer of classic clothing, accessories and perfume, is an enigmatic delight as depicted in this novel by perceptive and sensitive historical novelist, C. W. Gortner. 

Gabrielle’s parents are deeply in love but her paternal grandmother rejects Gabrielle’s mother.  Her mother in turn loves her daughter but says she is unable to live with her.  So searching and yearning for love followed by rejection seems to be a pattern that Gabrielle will follow until she meets the true love of her love, Arthur Capel or “Boy,” a relationship that is treasured because with it comes respect and treatment as an equal, competent professional woman.  The latter trait is not one encouraged in pre-WWII France but Gabrielle’s relationships yield financial and emotional freedom on her own terms. 

Thus begins an astonishing career in which Gabrielle begins her first shop where she is allowed to design everything but dresses.  Her styles, like the change in her name, jettison her into fame as a designer who isn’t afraid to risk her business for what she believes.  Cocoa often stated that women should dress elegantly, simply, sleekly, with some low-keyed jewelry or scarf accessories.  These were memorialized in the Chanel black suit, the sexy but simple black dress, and the famous Chanel No. 5 perfume that has solidly sold from its creation to the present.

Coco’s career conflicts and troubles are intimately described herein, some of which she handled with creative ideas and some which she lost and mourned.  Competition was fierce and even some of her own colleagues and workers tried to bring about her demise, literally by law and figuratively through slander. 

Although Coco was judged and demeaned as a Nazi collaborator, Gortner depicts her connection to the Nazi’s with a higher purpose and mysterious misunderstanding in covert circumstances that force the reader to suspend judgment.  The artist manages a comeback even after years of exile in Switzerland. 

While other writers have published their own books about Coco Chanel, C. W. Gortner has written a masterful portrait that is engaging and intriguing on every page celebrating Chanel’s intelligent, creative and beautiful clothing.  This reader was truly sad at the ending of this novel, an ending that mourns the passing of a passionate, brilliant, talented and incomparable woman.  Delightful historical fiction and so, so highly recommended!

1 comment:

  1. thanks for your very nice review. if your readers want to find easy ways to connect with the author, buy the book and even enter giveaways to win this book, the link to the tour organized by France Book Tours, which allowed you to read this book for free is: Emma at FBT