Book review and giveaway: Mademoiselle Chanel – I love France #142

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Mademoiselle Chanel

Mademoiselle Chanel

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book for free in exchange
for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post
as a reviewer,
and the thoughts are my own.

Mademoiselle Chanel

(historical fiction)

Release date: March 17, 2015
at William-Morrow/HarperCollins

384 pages

ISBN: 978-0062356406

Source: Received
from the author for a
virtual book tour on France Book Tours

Buy the book:
HarperCollins  |  IndieBound  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

 French Bingo 2015 logo  2015 HF Reading Challenge Button_FINAL 

     New-Release-Challenge  New Authors 2015


Rating systemRating systemRating systemRating systemRating system

What better candidate can you find than a former fashion executive and a well renowned historical fiction author to write a novel covering the whole life of Coco Chanel? If several movies have been dedicated to her and a few novels focusing on some period or other of her life, I believe Mademoiselle Chanel is the first historical novel to consider her extensively from her humble beginnings to her years after WWII. The result is a masterpiece by C. W. Gortner.

Book bloggers often comment on the choice of author or narrator to present a male or female main protagonist. If I gave you to read Mademoiselle Chanel with no indication of author, I doubt you would suspect a minute a male author is actually behind this first person narrative of Gabrielle Chanel. He masterfully manages so well to embody her in each line, whether dealing with her stellar career or her turbulent and painful emotional life.

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.

Presenting her life from her own perspective was also a genius idea, especially appropriate to deal with her shady years during the German occupation –if her American and British customers forgave her, the French were never again as much in love with her as before.

I also enjoyed how the author insisted on some elements in her younger years to put light on further developments in her life: for example her years as a kid in the convent with the nuns at Aubazine, and her friendship with Churchill (who called her Mademoiselle Chanel) so precious in the after War!

It was really fascinating to see how she rose to stardom, thanks to her tenacity, hard work, and basic skills at sowing as a kid, skills recognized and encouraged by nuns. And how she led her professional life in the midst of numerous heartbreaks.

As a French woman, I knew of course of Coco and her innovations in the world of fashion. Put in context, her story and evolution of her work was so interesting, even though I’m not one to follow fashion. So many times when I read the book I felt she was at the right time at the right place, and using the circumstances to make the most of it, for instance adapting convenient and comfortable clothes for women tending to the wounded during and after WWI.

You have learned to rise with the wind, rather than fight it.
Churchill to Coco, p.238


I rarely made a mistake. When I did, no one was harder on me than myself, my compulsion for perfection keeping me at my task until I succeeded.

The book also made me aware that she not only contributed a lot to clothes, hats, perfumes, jewelry, and other accessories, but she was really also the first to really launch the trend of tanned skins seen as beautiful. I did not know she had so many employees.

The novel offers also an amazing background on the rich world of artists in Paris on the first half of the 20th century, in a country also challenged by two world wars.

I have to confess this is the first book I read by C.W. Gortner, but it will definitely not be the last!

VERDICT: Daring the almost impossible, C.W. Gortner masterfully evokes Coco Chanel’s life in her own voice. A stunning presentation of an exceptional woman that will leave you dazzled, whether you are interested in the world of fashion or not.


For 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.


Mademoiselle Chanel - CW GortnerC.W. Gortner is the international bestselling author of six historical novels,
translated in over twenty-five languages to date.
His new novel, “Mademoiselle Chanel”,
traces the tumultuous rise to fame of iconic fashion designer,
Coco Chanel.
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


What other book did you recently read on a famous woman?



You can enter the giveaway here or on the book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below


Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

6 winners
Open to US only:
5 printed copies
+ 1 beautiful, handcrafted beaded bracelet
inspired by Coco’s black-and-white signature colors
and camellia design

Mademoiselle Chanel bracelet


Mademoiselle Chanel banner


17 thoughts on “Book review and giveaway: Mademoiselle Chanel – I love France #142

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