Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel

Categories:Book Reviews

Dear readers, in celebration of Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel’s birthday this upcoming Saturday August 19th and in honour of her life and legend I will be reviewing a few of the novels written of her life beginning with Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel by CW Gortner.  Whether you are ignorant of the mysterious and forever coveted fashion icon or an unapologetic admirer CW Gortner skillfully reveals and unfolds the life of Chanel and masterfully engages the reader in the legend of Chanel.  CW Gortner insightfully portrays Mademoiselle Chanel’s life and character giving her justice and authenticity which is apparent in his historic research and detailing of her life, era and the important figures that were closest to Chanel in her lifetime. Gortner beautifully unfolds Mademoiselle’s life chronologically telling her story so that we sympathise, relate to and develop a bond and fondness for a woman who was born and raised in hardship and who ultimately conquers fashion and a male dominated society by empowering women, emancipating them from the corsets and restraining garments of the time and becoming a role model for the strong, independent and self made woman.  The author reveals how Chanel overcame abandonment, struggle and poverty through strong will, dedication, insight, bravery, talent and an instinct for survival.

The author reveals Coco Chanel as a woman sensitive and extremely aware of her surroundings and environment and who draws from her life impressions and experiences to aid her talents and creativity.  The hard realities of Chanel’s life are explicitly and tenderly exposed where from a young age she must overcome and endure the loss of her mother and abandonment of an indifferent, heartless father to an orphanage where she is raised in austerity in a convent by nuns. The bleakness of her existence and necessity to be strong for herself and her frail younger sister encourages her to develop not only a talent for sewing and eye for detail but a vivid imagination that only intensifies in her maturer years and something Chanel would continually call upon as a coping mechanism and means to hide from the traumatic and humiliating aspects of her early life.   Her sewing ability and first job as a seamstress opens the door to a chance meeting with Etienne Balsan – an admired socialite and heir to a family in the textile manufacturing business who played an important role in her success.  Etienne transforms Chanel’s life forever when she becomes his mistress and is exposed to a life of luxury, leisure, high society and more importantly is introduced to the brilliant, charming and extremely wealthy Boy Capel.  A romance and enduring relationship is formed and Capel becomes the most important male figure and greatest love of Chanel’s life.  Until his tragic death, the passion and connection between Capel and Chanel was unbreakable and Capel aids Chanel by offering a financial loan and by nurturing her talents and abilities in growing her fashion empire.   Chanel’s love for simplicity, elegance and pursuit for luxury and enhancing a woman’s life through unrestrained fashion made her a fashion icon.  Mademoiselle’s Chanel’s talents and insights into the world around her as well as her ability to recognise the need for change and reject the restraints of her time eventually catapults her to success and fame.

An engaging, honest, endearing and beautiful novel that captivates the mind as we are drawn into the complex yet fascinating life of Chanel.  Gortner reveals the authentic woman shrouded in mystery and moulded by the hardships, misfortunes and fortunes of her life and whose ingenuity, drive and creativity breaks down the barriers of fashion and in turn liberates women of her time.  As Mademoiselle Chanel’s life unfolds chapter by enthralling chapter we develop a clearer insight into her life, actions, flaws and incredible accomplishments and discover why Chanel became a fashion icon, legend and inspiration to countless women around the world and why her fashion empire and style endures until today.


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