Author C.W. Gortner
March 20-April 8, 2015
Release date: March 17, 2015
SYNOPSISFor readers of “The Paris Wife” and “Z” comes this vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel—the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and became one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century.
Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to an 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.
An enthralling novel of an extraordinary designer who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark.
Copy received from France Book Tours for an honest review
This was an easy five star read. First, C.W. Gortner is a fantastic writer. I've read his historical fiction from the Tudor era before and really enjoyed his books and writing. Second, Gabrielle Chanel or Coco Chanel as she became known is a incredibly interesting person, woman, icon, fashion designer. I'm not a big follower of fashion but I have always known what an impact Chanel had on the fashion world and how she transformed fashion.
I loved how Gortner gave us, the readers, insight into her humble beginnings. When the story begins the terror she felt was palpable. Her mother dies and her father abandons them. Her and her siblings were alone with only each other. I was fascinated to learn that she was a singer.
I can't say how much I loved this book. I loved learning about this transformative designer. I loved how she refused the conventional designs and gave women their own style. I also loved learning about the time period and really understood and empathized with her struggle to lift herself out of poverty. Lovely and enjoyable read.
FEBRUARY 5, 1954
The herd gathers below. I can hear them, all the journalists and eager celebrities, and select critics who received my embossed invitation. I hear their excited voices, a buzz that creeps up the mirrored staircase to where I wait in my disordered atelier.
About me, the twelve models are already dressed in my new creations, wreathed in clouds of cigarette smoke and my signature perfume. I’ve asked for silence as I lie on my back checking their hem lengths and snipping at stray threads. I cannot think when they chatter, but there is no stopping them. They tug the jeweled belts of my black gowns, clanking their bracelets and clicking their pearls; they reflect the agitation I feel but cannot show.
I rise to my feet, letting my scissors dangle on their ribbon around my neck. I know the speculation going on below: Will she do it? Can she do it? She is seventy-one. She hasn’t designed a dress in fifteen years. After falling so low, how can she possibly rise again?
None of this is new to me. I have faced it all before. The expectation of failure, the craving for adulation; these are the hallmarks of my life. I light another cigarette and survey the models before me. “You,” I tell a dark-haired girl who reminds me of myself at her age. “Too many bracelets. Remove one.” Even as she flushes and does as I ask, I hear my beloved Boy whisper in my ear, “Remember, Coco, you’re only a woman.”
Only a woman who must continue to reinvent herself if she is to survive.
I catch sight of myself in one of the room’s mirrors—my Gypsy skin and mouth red with lipstick, my thick brows and flashing gold-brown eyes, my body all angles and edges in my braided pink suit. 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.
Who is Coco Chanel?
“ALLEZ,” I CALL OUT. The models line up at the head of the staircase to my salon. I have overseen this ritual so many times before, straightening a sleeve at the last minute, adjusting the tilt of a hat, the fold of a collar. As I wave the models forward, I draw back. I will not make my appearance until the applause has faded—if there is applause.
I cannot be sure anymore, not after all this time.
Coiling my knees to my chest, my cigarettes at my side, I silence the chimes of my bijoux and perch at the top of my mirrored stairs, becoming a hidden spectator, solitary, as I have always been.
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 crêpe de chine or tweed.
I will try to remember that for all my triumphs and mistakes, I am still only a woman.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
translated in over twenty-five languages to date.
His new novel, “Mademoiselle Chanel”,
traces the tumultuous rise to fame of iconic fashion designer,
In 2016, Random House will publish his eighth novel, “Vatican Princess”,
about Lucrezia Borgia.
Raised in Spain and a long-time resident of the Bay Area,
C.W. is also dedicated to companion animal rescue from overcrowded shelters.
Visit his website. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter
Subscribe to his newsletter
Buy the book: HarperCollins | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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Open to US only:
5 printed copies
+ 1 beautiful, handcrafted beaded bracelet
inspired by Coco’s black-and-white signature colors
and camellia design