My review of Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner

DRAMA, PASSION, TRAGEDY, AND BEAUTY: C.W.’s new novel stunningly imagines the life of Coco Chanel—the iconic fashion designer whose staggering creativity built an empire and made her one of the 20th century’s most influential, and controversial, figures.

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her sisters are sent to a convent orphanage after their mother’s death. Here, the nuns nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel her 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. Her little black dress, her signature perfume No. 5; her dramatic friendships, affairs, and rivalries with luminaries of her era increase her wealth and fame. But as the years pass, success cannot save her from heartbreak. And when Paris falls to the Nazis during World War II, Coco finds herself at a dangerous crossroads, forced to make choices that will forever change her. 

An enthralling portrayal of an extraordinary woman who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel is Coco’s intimate story.

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (March 17, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062356402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062356406
There is nothing left of the pliant skin of my youth. And my hands, covered in precious rings, are as raw as a stonemason’s, knotted, marred by a thousand needle pricks-the hands of the Auvergne peasant I am at heart, the foundling, the orphan, the dreamer, the schemer. 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. 

And as I behold my uncertain future, I will reflect on my past and do my best to tell the truth, though myth and rumor clothe me as much as my signature crepe de chine or tweed.

I will try to remember that for all my triumphs and mistakes, I am still only a woman. (Source:  Mademoiselle Chanel, C.W. Gortner, Paris, pg. 2).

In, ‘Mademoiselle Chanel’ you will meet little Gabrielle born to loving parents who ends up orphaned in a rural French convent. Her one saving grace is the fact that she could sew most any pattern, given her, almost to perfection.  C.W. Gortner captures the little girl lost inside the woman whose life becomes as unpredictable as she was. Broken up chapters into five acts covering 1895-1945, ‘Mademoiselle Chanel’ highlights her most pivotal years graced by the author’s beautiful writing style. 

As Gabrielle grows up, C.W. Gortner focuses on her male relationships, friendships, lovers and loves lost showing us the dichotomy between the innocent girl and the independent woman who stands on her own truly finding her own way in the world.  Gortner makes Gabrielle likable but not pitiful. The reader begins to understand why and how fashion would become her salvation. However, if you are expecting numerous fashion, clothing or fabric descriptive chapters they are not here in abundance. The Mademoiselle Chanel that author, C.W. Gortner writes about and brings to life is the rural French girl who falls in love with sewing to become Coco Chanel the world’s most beloved fashion designer. This is not the novelized biography of the already famous Coco Chanel. It is instead a breathtaking story of the woman behind the icon and I for one am thankful to have read it. 

If you want to meet the real woman behind the designer and find out about her early life and most life changing events that shaped her into Coco Chanel, then this is the novel for you. I loved it and I hope you do too.  

Thank you for my review copy, William Morrow, HarperCollins

To buy a copy of Mademoiselle Chanel,  Amazon US and Amazon UK

To visit the author's webpage,  C.W. Gortner


Kevin Marsh said…
A fascinating story.
The life of Coco is a worthy read, the love,drama and hopes of the woman who changed European vogue forever.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Kevin,
You're absolutely right about Coco Chanel. It was a fun and interesting read. Thanks so much for commenting.
Daniela said…
What a charming story, in your words even much more fascinating, thank you
Sending hugs