Phew!!! finally done. Took me a while to read this book but I am glad I stuck with it to the end. I will admit that I thought about giving up but…. glad I didn’t.
This was my first book by Gortner so I was not sure what to expect. The book is well researched and the writing is strong. I will say that he had his work cut out for him considering the complicated subject he picked. Coco Chanel was not a wall flower and writing about her had to be a difficult task. Gortner did not seem to shy away from the difficult aspects of Chanel’s personality and, in fact, provided the reader with an opportunity to make up her mind as to whether or not Chanel is a likable personality.
The story of Chanel is more than a story of a famous designer. In fact, as far as I am concerned, this is the story of a woman who did not want to be restricted by the labels society wanted to impose on her. Coco Chanel did not, at least not at first, set out to be the best fashion designer of her time. Her main goal was to be the best Chanel she cold possibly be and at times that mean not being liked very much.
Although her achievements were all her own and won on her own terms without regard for others. She was far from a selfish person. There was a Gortner, was able to let her softness shine through even through the worst moments.
Something that struck me all through the book was that it was not until much later in the book that she felt she was anything special. Her designs were an extension of her personality…. No frills. Clothes, to Chanel, were not meant to be a costume. They were made to be worn and to accentuate when necessary but not to make one feel like a prisoner. The designs of Chanel are so far removed from what the House of Chanel is currently putting out. I’m certain that Chanel herself is turning over in her grave right now.
Her success as a fashion designer is in complete contrast with her not so successful love life. Her personal life is quite sad, actually. Although I’m not sure she always felt that way. Being in love and following the traditional role for a woman of her time would have impeded her from becoming Chanel.
I think Gortner did a great job at providing the reader with historical context and still to making the book so description to the point of turning it boring.
I would recommend this book to a lover of historical fiction, not so much to someone who wants to read the book only for the subject and the fact that she is a fashion icon. That reader will not gain that type of insight from this book. If you want to know about Chanel, the woman, I would say read the book. If you want to know about Chanel the designer, I will tell you there are other books you might enjoy more.
RATING: **** (started slow hence the 4 stars)
FAVORITE QUOTE FROM THE BOOK
“Better to be remarked upon than to be ignored”