My Prior Posts on Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel (1883 to 1971, France) is almost certainly the most influential fashion designer of the 20th century and in my not totally informed on the subject opinion, of all times. I have images of three female writers on my sidebar, Irene Nemirovsky, Clarice Lispector and Nancy Mitford. Each of them, whether intentionally or not, dressed and strived to look like a Coco Chanel model.
I first became interested in Coco Chanel in July of 2015 when I read a brilliantly biography, Mademoiselle Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda K. Gareliot. In addition to being an excellent account of her journey from an orphan raised by nuns to one of the wealthiest people in the world it explains why her designd both reflected and shapes the times. This is for sure the first book one should read about Chanel. You may not close the book fully liking her but you will admire her determination.
C. W. Gortner in his novel Mademoiselle Chanel starts with the death of her mother. Their father was not up to or interested in taking care of his three daughters and two sons. Chanel ends up in an orphanage where she learns to sew. When she was 18 she began to work a bit as a milliner and a night club singer. Her beautiful looks attracted men and soon she was the mistress of a very wealthy man, living in his chateau. The man is single but Coco is not a socially acceptable wife. He does set her up in her first shop. We see her develop her business, market her fashion line. Her greatest business success was the developing of her perfume, Chanel Number Five.
The most controversial period of her life was during World War Two during the occupation of Paris by the Nazis. She continued to live in the ultra luxurious Hotel Ritz, even though it was the living quarters of the Nazi elite. Coco began a romance with a German officer, a count. The widely held view is that the Germans thought Coco, friends with Winston Churchill, might have valuable information. Coco felt she was being cheated by Jewish business partners and she was open to using Nazi policies to her advantage. At the end of the war Coco feared being labeled a collaborator and fled
to Switzerland for seven years.
I saw no errors or serious omissions in Gortner's novel. Some of the secondary characters could have been better developed. I enjoyed this book. Gortner made me feel I knew Coco. I would be happy to read more of his work.
C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.
After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.
In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.
C.W. recently completed his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about Lucrezia Borgia; the third novel in his Tudor Spymaster series for St Martin's Press; and a new novel about the dramatic, glamorous life of Coco Chanel, scheduled for lead title publication by William Morrow, Harper Collins, in the spring of 2015. Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.