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Coco Chanel: A Biography

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Chanel. The name means fashion and perfume, emancipation and casual feminine allure. Gabrielle Chanel began as a kept woman making hats for her lover's other mistresses and went on to become fashion's greatest career woman. She never married or had children, but men like Igor Stravinsky and the Duke of Westminster abandoned their families for her. Now Axel Madsen tells Cha Chanel. The name means fashion and perfume, emancipation and casual feminine allure. Gabrielle Chanel began as a kept woman making hats for her lover's other mistresses and went on to become fashion's greatest career woman. She never married or had children, but men like Igor Stravinsky and the Duke of Westminster abandoned their families for her. Now Axel Madsen tells Chanel's story. Scheduled to become a TV miniseries starring Jane Seymour. 32 illustrations.


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Chanel. The name means fashion and perfume, emancipation and casual feminine allure. Gabrielle Chanel began as a kept woman making hats for her lover's other mistresses and went on to become fashion's greatest career woman. She never married or had children, but men like Igor Stravinsky and the Duke of Westminster abandoned their families for her. Now Axel Madsen tells Cha Chanel. The name means fashion and perfume, emancipation and casual feminine allure. Gabrielle Chanel began as a kept woman making hats for her lover's other mistresses and went on to become fashion's greatest career woman. She never married or had children, but men like Igor Stravinsky and the Duke of Westminster abandoned their families for her. Now Axel Madsen tells Chanel's story. Scheduled to become a TV miniseries starring Jane Seymour. 32 illustrations.

30 review for Coco Chanel: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    I have always been fascinated with the life of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (and not just because we share a first name!), and I have read just about every book about her I could get my hands on. Axel Madsen’s biography is probably my favourite book detailing the life of this fashion icon/revolutionary, entrepreneur, sponsor of the arts and generally enigmatic woman. Madsen does an excellent job giving the reader a lot of historical, cultural and political context to frame the story of this very uniqu I have always been fascinated with the life of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (and not just because we share a first name!), and I have read just about every book about her I could get my hands on. Axel Madsen’s biography is probably my favourite book detailing the life of this fashion icon/revolutionary, entrepreneur, sponsor of the arts and generally enigmatic woman. Madsen does an excellent job giving the reader a lot of historical, cultural and political context to frame the story of this very unique woman’s life: the first half of the 20th century saw the world change very significantly, and Chanel had a crucial role to play in the definition of modern women’s fashion, as well as being a trailblazer as a business woman. But it is undeniable that the story of Chanel’s life often reads like fiction: it is a Hollywood-worthy rags-to-riches story with plenty of tragedy, romance, political intrigue and famous artists! But this woman’s story does not have a very happy ending… Chanel, in my view, can be best described as a survivor: a lonely woman who had known bitter poverty, cruel parental abandonment and deep heartbreak decided to live her life in a way that would protect her against such things ever happening again. This means that the woman described in the pages of Madsen’s book was driven, strong and resourceful, but also deeply neurotic, given to embellish the past out of pride (and shame), and ruthless when she had to protect what she saw as rightfully hers. Obviously, she is not always likable, but I found this biography quite compassionate: knowing what she went through to get where she was, it is difficult to judge her as a bad person. Her love of comfort, liberty and physical exercise – which is reflected in the clothing she created – was truly a revolution, as women’s fashion of the Belle Époque dictated they be trapped in corsets, yards of heavy skirts and huge, overly ornamental hats. She hated those restrictive attires, which did not suit her boyish figure and kept her from riding, walking and working comfortably – so she scraped it all away and made clothes women could actually move in, that highlighted them – so that the attention would not be drawn to the clothes, but on the person wearing them. Her ideas and style are still present in women’s clothing today: every time you see a black dress, tweed worn with silk or satin, long string of pearls or chunky-linked chains, you are looking at her legacy! I understand why some elements of her life are often romanticized by novelists: how dramatic to think that after Boy Capel’s death she vowed to bring the whole world into mourning with her and designed what would become the little black dress, or that her affair with Stravinsky and patronage of the Ballets Russes was a result of the near riot caused by the first showing of “The Rite of Spring”! This is all very cinematic, for sure, but Madsen’s book also focuses on her work, the building of her business empire, her friendships with people like Jean Cocteau and Winston Churchill. As juicy as her love life might have been, I find those aspects of her story much more interesting! Some aspects of her life remain shrouded with ambiguity, but as Madsen says from the very beginning, Chanel lied a lot (mostly to hide her humble origins and to conceal her age): she made herself an unreliable narrator, so information gathered from friends, family and business relations may be accurate, but up to a point. Her involvement with the Baron von Dincklage might have been the simple comfort of romance at an age when most women give up on even expecting it, or it might have been something more nefarious. The bottom line is that we’ll probably never really know for sure… The sour aspect of this biography is the often repeated pattern of loneliness: despite numerous romantic entanglements, Chanel never got married and never had children. Partly out of stubborn independence and dedication to her work, but also out of bad luck; many people she was very close to passed away, and two of her most significant relationships were with men who couldn’t marry her because of social conventions. Could she have “had it all” had she lived today? I’d like to think so, but who can say? If you are curious about the life of this extraordinary woman, this might not be the flashiest biography available, but I found it to be the most comprehensive and well researched. Highly recommended!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rica

    I love, love, love fashion and wasn’t disappointed with the details in this book. The book included much more political history than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise. I also enjoyed reading about the melding of art, music, literature, theater, and fashion in 1920’s and 1930’s France; what a bright lively place the author takes you to! Suddenly though, the Second World War comes to France and the book grinds to a rather slow pace. I had a hard time getting through the second half of the I love, love, love fashion and wasn’t disappointed with the details in this book. The book included much more political history than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise. I also enjoyed reading about the melding of art, music, literature, theater, and fashion in 1920’s and 1930’s France; what a bright lively place the author takes you to! Suddenly though, the Second World War comes to France and the book grinds to a rather slow pace. I had a hard time getting through the second half of the book. It wasn’t just that due to the war France wasn’t full of ‘joie de vivre’, but I felt myself becoming a little disenchanted with Coco. There’s no denying that Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel was a formidable talent and great visionary. She liberated women from the corset and revolutionized women’s fashion in such a way that we still feel the effects today. This is the first biography that I have read of Coco Chanel, so perhaps the book is skewing my view, but under the exciting people, places, and glamorous events I was disturbed to find Coco was not exactly what I imagined. She just seemed neurotic, somewhat of a pathological liar, and at times helpless. She did have a very traumatic youth, but at some point I wanted her to stand up and take control of her life without depending on the support of wealthy playboys, or perking up by treating other people harshly. But perhaps that’s the point; just because we have an idea about someone and their legacy, doesn’t mean that they weren’t a real person with real feelings and flaws…

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    If you like biographies and you're at all interested in fashion, you will adore this book! Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel changed the way women dress forever with her simple, modern approach to clothing. Things we take for granted today like the little black dress, sling back shoes, the quilted bag, a suit, and a long strand of pearls, all exist simply because Chanel was wholly original and willing to take risks. She had no money, but she always had influence because she believed in herself completely. If you like biographies and you're at all interested in fashion, you will adore this book! Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel changed the way women dress forever with her simple, modern approach to clothing. Things we take for granted today like the little black dress, sling back shoes, the quilted bag, a suit, and a long strand of pearls, all exist simply because Chanel was wholly original and willing to take risks. She had no money, but she always had influence because she believed in herself completely. The fact that she came from absolutely nothing and created a huge life for herself (the one she always believed she deserved in the first place) is truly inspirational. The fact that the "Chanel" style still has tremendous influence on the way we wear and think about clothing, is simply fabulous! Tres Chic!!

  4. 5 out of 5

    HMS

    An incredible book about an amazing visionary who changed the way women dressed.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    This book was greater than I expected. "Coco Chanel: A Biography" gave me an insight into many things other than fashion, including politics and women in France. Coco Chanel changed women not only in the way they dress, but also in their mentality. Coco learned to dress make from the nuns at the orphanage and began working at a dressmakers. She started her first shop form the money from Etienne Balsan and the rest is history. Coco had many lovers through her life but I was surprised when she clo This book was greater than I expected. "Coco Chanel: A Biography" gave me an insight into many things other than fashion, including politics and women in France. Coco Chanel changed women not only in the way they dress, but also in their mentality. Coco learned to dress make from the nuns at the orphanage and began working at a dressmakers. She started her first shop form the money from Etienne Balsan and the rest is history. Coco had many lovers through her life but I was surprised when she closed her shops throughout the war. I assumed, because she was so hardworking, she would stay open but she didn't. She led an interesting life and after her death, her legacy continued through work ethic and in the fashion industry like a suntan which was shoned, the Chanel suit and the little black dress. Its amazing to think that these things which are evident in ordinary life, were started by the amazing woman, Coco Chanel. It was an amazing biography and I learnt so much about her life and her mentality towards women. The fact that she never got married is interesting too. She was absorbed into her work that she didn't want to get married even though she had many lovers. I would love to read more about her, some that focus more on her work.

  6. 4 out of 5

    amanda

    This is one of the best books about the details of Coco's life. It is complete, and chronicles Coco's entire life. I was pleasantly surprised by the political history that was included. As much as i love Coco's contribution to fashion i really was not pleased to learn of her anti-semitic behaviour and ideology. Her ruthless drive for perfection, wealth, power, and love made for an interesting read. This is one of the best books about the details of Coco's life. It is complete, and chronicles Coco's entire life. I was pleasantly surprised by the political history that was included. As much as i love Coco's contribution to fashion i really was not pleased to learn of her anti-semitic behaviour and ideology. Her ruthless drive for perfection, wealth, power, and love made for an interesting read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Elaine

    I am not a fashion conscientious person. I have little knowledge of the histoy of fashion. While reading The Secret Lives of Colours (fantastic read!!!) I came across two names that intrigued me: Coco Chanel and Elsie de Wolfe. I had of course heard of Chanel but not de Wolfe. I looked for both of their memoirs and biographies but could only find a few of Chanels. I don't think I picked the best biographer. At times I was completely lost as to who I was reading about. Due to the large number of F I am not a fashion conscientious person. I have little knowledge of the histoy of fashion. While reading The Secret Lives of Colours (fantastic read!!!) I came across two names that intrigued me: Coco Chanel and Elsie de Wolfe. I had of course heard of Chanel but not de Wolfe. I looked for both of their memoirs and biographies but could only find a few of Chanels. I don't think I picked the best biographer. At times I was completely lost as to who I was reading about. Due to the large number of French, German and Russian names, many of whom shared first or last names, and titles that were used instead of given names only part of the time, was very confusing! I read on anyway. The author also has a very bad habit of telling a part of a story only to backtrack a few years in the next paragraph to then jump ahead a little while later. As far as giving me an idea of who Coco Chanel was, well that the author did very well. I don't think I would have cared for Chanel. She seemed vapid and unforgiving. One thing I can apprecaite was her dedication to liberating women from corsets and restictive clothing. She wanted women to be the main draw, not 15 yards of cloth draped over petticoats. She revolutionized womens fashion. She made comfort and class the fashion of the day. Clean lines, tailored skirts and jackets, clothes with pockets that enabled women to move with comfort. Fabulous. I have always loved a tailored look and especially any style taken from mens fashion and feminized. I had no idea it was Coco Chanel who first took mens fashion and redesigned it for women. Military jackets and coats for women? Um, hell yes!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    "Coco Chanel, who died on a Sunday-the only day, her friends said, that could kill her-was a force and a legend in her time." The subject of Coco Chanel is a fascinating read. There are a handful of books written about her so I tried to do my homework and find the best one to read. After finishing Madsen's account, I appreciated her thoroughness but often found her sentences to be bulky and over-sophisticated. I did appreciate her neutral account and felt there was little conjecture on her part. "Coco Chanel, who died on a Sunday-the only day, her friends said, that could kill her-was a force and a legend in her time." The subject of Coco Chanel is a fascinating read. There are a handful of books written about her so I tried to do my homework and find the best one to read. After finishing Madsen's account, I appreciated her thoroughness but often found her sentences to be bulky and over-sophisticated. I did appreciate her neutral account and felt there was little conjecture on her part. I knew a bit about Gabrielle's destitute beginnings and quite a bit about her rags to couture story. Happily the book explored how the war changed everything for women. This moment of drastic change and the perfect setting for Chanel to streamline the way women dress. Wartime put women in factories, driving ambulances, and even encouraged them to slim down in order to use less fabric. While there was plenty written about her famous perfume I was disappointed her handbags weren't mentioned at all. There are many design aspects to them that are so fascinating I think they deserved inclusion. Overall I felt like there was a lot of great information here, despite so many bloated sentences.

  9. 5 out of 5

    KOMET

    A fascinating biography of a compelling, enigmatic, gifted and forthright woman who revolutionized fashion the world over.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary Havens

    I’ve only been reading this for two weeks?? Seems longer. I got this for free years ago, still in the wrapping. Chanel was definitely a tour de force and her life was fascinating and boring at the same time. Fascinating because she could maneuver through just about anything, it seems. She had quite a few admirable qualities and confidence in spades. The boring parts, for me, were all the names and places. Granted, this book was published in 1990 so maybe Lady Abdy was a more recognized name (or p I’ve only been reading this for two weeks?? Seems longer. I got this for free years ago, still in the wrapping. Chanel was definitely a tour de force and her life was fascinating and boring at the same time. Fascinating because she could maneuver through just about anything, it seems. She had quite a few admirable qualities and confidence in spades. The boring parts, for me, were all the names and places. Granted, this book was published in 1990 so maybe Lady Abdy was a more recognized name (or pick just about any royal title in this book) but I ended up just glossing over most of them. There were a lot of names and I ended up not caring. The war chapters were pretty bad as well because these aristocrats seemed very “ inconvenienced” while, literally, millions of people were dying. So that was hard to get through. Madsen didn’t shy away from anyone’s faults so that was good on him although, he seemed to refer to other Chanel biographies frequently which made me wonder why I was reading this one. If you are super into Chanel or fashion designer biographies, give this a whirl. Great pictures are included and I referred to them frequently.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Apryl Anderson

    This was really quite interesting: I'd already assumed that Ms. Chanel's life was quite an adventure, but comprehensive biographies aren't always such a dependable thrill ride. Madsen obviously did heaps of research, and managed to piece the bits together to highlight the crucial elements, dropping the unessential like dressmaker's pins to the floor (careful where you step). I've bookmarked a half-dozen pages for my own furthered research: Movies she costumed, crucial style elements, personaliti This was really quite interesting: I'd already assumed that Ms. Chanel's life was quite an adventure, but comprehensive biographies aren't always such a dependable thrill ride. Madsen obviously did heaps of research, and managed to piece the bits together to highlight the crucial elements, dropping the unessential like dressmaker's pins to the floor (careful where you step). I've bookmarked a half-dozen pages for my own furthered research: Movies she costumed, crucial style elements, personalities she clothed, and shoulders she rubbed. Here's evidence that she was inspired by those she inspired, and I'd give anything for a community like that! Aside from the wealth (not that I'd scoff it), Chanel was an artist who communed with artists--people who challenged standards, and grew with and from each other. No wonder she left her mark!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I had a hard time deciding between "it was ok" and "I liked it" for this book. Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was an interesting character, of that there is no doubt. But for reasons I can't really put my finger on, Axel Madsen's telling of her story left me cold. Chanel seemed to spend most of her life reinventing her personal history. Her talent as a designer was never in question but her life before, during and after WW II is something else. Was she a heartless Nazi sympathizer or just a woman with I had a hard time deciding between "it was ok" and "I liked it" for this book. Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was an interesting character, of that there is no doubt. But for reasons I can't really put my finger on, Axel Madsen's telling of her story left me cold. Chanel seemed to spend most of her life reinventing her personal history. Her talent as a designer was never in question but her life before, during and after WW II is something else. Was she a heartless Nazi sympathizer or just a woman with a dysfunctional family background trying to survive as best she could? I think that you would draw your own conclusion after reading this book. Or, like me, you could remain confused and just admire her very evident talent for design.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    I’ve read paragraphs of this and small bits. The opening chapter is fantastic and really draws you into her life. I fully intend to read this full on one day. However, right now this makes for a great decor book for display. The spine of the book is black with gold lettering — CHANEL. It’s so classy. Just like her. Plus that name is so iconic to anything fashionable.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anna-Maria Tuominen-Reini

    Amazing life story, and such a business woman! And still the author focuses on her affairs. It was interesting to learn about her German and art world connections. I would have loved to hear more about how she grew her business and run it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nino Meladze

    Story which was a bit more expanded than one person’s biography. I liked the links to other people’s stories and also events at the time. Despite described difficult character of Gabrielle, one almost loved these imperfections. True self-made legend that started with vision and self-centring.

  16. 4 out of 5

    elif.sıla.akbulut

    I really love this biography of Coco Chanel. It is quite detailed and greatly depicts the charm and timelessness of Chanel fashion.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Very informative story. She was quite a woman!

  18. 5 out of 5

    DeBora Rachelle

    Probably The first book I read on Chanel which made me want to read more.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alison Robinson

    I would have liked to hear more about her designs and how they changed over time. I felt like this book was focused more on the people she knew, rather than to imprint on fashion.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christine Parker

    An ordinary book about an ...alleged..extraordinary woman. Some fashion plates would have been nice

  21. 4 out of 5

    GK Stritch

    astonishing person, Chanel--would not like to be in her employment, not sure I'd want to be her friend, but a great bio astonishing person, Chanel--would not like to be in her employment, not sure I'd want to be her friend, but a great bio

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    The author made it very clear that Mme. Chanel re-wrote her personal history based upon whim, circumstances or necessity. It is not that she was a chameleon, more a very serious and determined woman who was hell-bent on overcoming any obstacles in her life. Yes, it made her selfish and laser-focused on herself and her work. Some readers noted that she was a very unsympathetic character. Perhaps, but she was inventive and ingenious (more than creative). Her success was ensured by her ability to re The author made it very clear that Mme. Chanel re-wrote her personal history based upon whim, circumstances or necessity. It is not that she was a chameleon, more a very serious and determined woman who was hell-bent on overcoming any obstacles in her life. Yes, it made her selfish and laser-focused on herself and her work. Some readers noted that she was a very unsympathetic character. Perhaps, but she was inventive and ingenious (more than creative). Her success was ensured by her ability to read the temper of the times, and that is one of the most interesting aspects of this book. In addition to being a biography of Chanel, it is a social history of the 20th Century. The authors account of Chanel's behavior during WW2 was fascinating. Based upon our own political opinions we may be critical or resentful of her action. It is also possible to say that she was the ultimate survivor. Of poverty. Of neglect. Of loneliness. Of male chauvinism. Of her own poor judgments. This woman had impeccable instincts and could turn almost any situation around and then kick it forward in high gear. Any woman who has worked in business, or as an entrepreneur of any kind will understand her on some level. Of course she is not likeable, and no, she is not a genius. She is a single-focused, highly intelligent woman who sacrificed everything to prove a point to herself. Fascinating and quite sad.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shirley

    Very thorough biography about Coco Chanel from childhood to her death. She was a slavedriver who forced her models to stand 16 hours while she cut and pinned fabric right on their bodies. She was a tyrant to people she didn't like but she was also generous to many artists and supported some of them financially. She had many lovers but never settled down because she liked her independence too much and wanted to continue working. She was an exception in her day because she was a very successful bu Very thorough biography about Coco Chanel from childhood to her death. She was a slavedriver who forced her models to stand 16 hours while she cut and pinned fabric right on their bodies. She was a tyrant to people she didn't like but she was also generous to many artists and supported some of them financially. She had many lovers but never settled down because she liked her independence too much and wanted to continue working. She was an exception in her day because she was a very successful business woman in a society dominated by men. I didn't realize what a humble background she came from. Her parents sold various goods in local markets. She was always afraid that people would find out her parents didn't get married until she was a few years old and she tried to distance herself from her siblings. She often lied in interviews about her family because she didn't want people to judge her. She came up with so many things that women still wear today. She was the first to make dresses out of jersey (because of the war, there were rations on nice fabrics) and costume jewlellry. Of course, she invented the "little black dress." Before her time, women only wore black dresses to funerals. She said her greated compliment was when lower-end shops copied her designs. Unlike other designers at her time, she let the press photograph her designs before the runway shows.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tiffaney

    The author takes a very thorough approach to the introduction of Coco Chanel from her parents onward. Chanel's youth and early adulthood is very drawn out. What Madsen does however, is provide the reader with a very detailed account of who this woman is and the events that lead her to the person she becomes. I found myself both despising and completely adoring Coco Chanel, based on this biography. As with all people and situations, Coco Chanel is not a "black and white" personality but is a crea The author takes a very thorough approach to the introduction of Coco Chanel from her parents onward. Chanel's youth and early adulthood is very drawn out. What Madsen does however, is provide the reader with a very detailed account of who this woman is and the events that lead her to the person she becomes. I found myself both despising and completely adoring Coco Chanel, based on this biography. As with all people and situations, Coco Chanel is not a "black and white" personality but is a creation of, many, many shades of grey jersey ;) While I do wish that the beginning part of this bio moved more quickly and concisely, I really enjoyed reading this. I learned a great deal more than what I could even imagine about this iconic woman and her involvement in getting America to come on board with WWII. < Truly a fascinating read and one that I would recommend to anyone wanting to better understand the woman behind "Chanel" and what life in France was like preceding and during World War II.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    This book was heartbreaking and so interesting at the same time! I wish I had known her and had a chance to learn from her whilst she was alive. I always knew I would like her - and her story was not a disappointment.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    I'm of a generation and background where Chanel = pink tweed suits for old society ladies, and surprisingly I had never done much Wikipedia-surfing on the woman behind it all except something about how she got started as the mistress of a rich man, so I was totally flabbergasted by her kind of crazy history and what she did for fashion. Seriously a rags-to-riches story and yet full of strange contradictions in her personality and relationships. I enjoyed reading through her life story but I felt I'm of a generation and background where Chanel = pink tweed suits for old society ladies, and surprisingly I had never done much Wikipedia-surfing on the woman behind it all except something about how she got started as the mistress of a rich man, so I was totally flabbergasted by her kind of crazy history and what she did for fashion. Seriously a rags-to-riches story and yet full of strange contradictions in her personality and relationships. I enjoyed reading through her life story but I felt this was a bit too long and at times it felt like reading the column in Vogue that details society happenings and drops all these names that I really don't care about. Also some kind of a glossary or guide to all the various people that show up would've been helpful since I couldn't keep them straight.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marthe Bijman

    It seems that Coco Chanel was not the sweet little ingénue she was made out to be in the 2009 film “Coco avant Chanel”. According to this biography she was tough, bad-tempered, neurotic, eccentric and an unapologetic liar: “She made up things”. She applied her knack for fabrication to her own identity as well as to the clothing lines she introduced. These were based on what she personally liked to wear, starting with masculine-type clothes, then droopy dresses and sports wear – and the rest is h It seems that Coco Chanel was not the sweet little ingénue she was made out to be in the 2009 film “Coco avant Chanel”. According to this biography she was tough, bad-tempered, neurotic, eccentric and an unapologetic liar: “She made up things”. She applied her knack for fabrication to her own identity as well as to the clothing lines she introduced. These were based on what she personally liked to wear, starting with masculine-type clothes, then droopy dresses and sports wear – and the rest is history. Madsen focuses on her associates, admirers and financiers, rather than the details of her designs and styles. Chanel, in later life, was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, and one wonders whether an untrained, gauche entrepreneur like her would have been as successful in today’s fashion world.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    Chanel was a powerhouse. Born of poor parents, raised in an orphanage, and looking at tough odds for success didn't seem to slow this woman's life down. A modern woman for her time, and with a talent that was financially backed by her boyfriend, she took off. The book is very detailed and insightful. The society that she catered to was small, but very wealthy even in times of war. They also never allowed those who dressed them mingle with them, until this woman came along. From her various famous Chanel was a powerhouse. Born of poor parents, raised in an orphanage, and looking at tough odds for success didn't seem to slow this woman's life down. A modern woman for her time, and with a talent that was financially backed by her boyfriend, she took off. The book is very detailed and insightful. The society that she catered to was small, but very wealthy even in times of war. They also never allowed those who dressed them mingle with them, until this woman came along. From her various famous lovers and close friends to her style and empire, it's all a very fascinating story. The little details of her designs and life are what make this story interesting, even if she did try to keep her years of childhood a secret during her lifetime.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    An informative book that gets off to a very slow start in the first 50 pages, but nicely picks up speed. An in-depth look into who Coco Chanel was, and who she preferred to present to the world. Less than 30 pages actually delves into her design process, it's much more of a biographey of Chanel , her life and her influences, her lovers, and friends, than a tome into creating eduring style. This book also covers her involvement with a Nazi officer, which is omitted from many of the Chanel stories An informative book that gets off to a very slow start in the first 50 pages, but nicely picks up speed. An in-depth look into who Coco Chanel was, and who she preferred to present to the world. Less than 30 pages actually delves into her design process, it's much more of a biographey of Chanel , her life and her influences, her lovers, and friends, than a tome into creating eduring style. This book also covers her involvement with a Nazi officer, which is omitted from many of the Chanel stories. It also, offers a great deal of interesting insight into the perfume side of the business, and her complicated relationship with the Wertheimer family. Well worh worth reading. Optimally I'd like to give a 3.5

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shanna

    Sheesh, this took way too long for me to get through! I had saved this biography for last out of a group of them I had gotten for Christmas, thinking it'd be the best but I was very wrong. There were of course some interesting parts such as the fashion but overall, it was much less interesting than I was expecting. Turns out Gabrielle was a bit of a fibber so there'd be 3 versions of major events in her life and rather than just including the true one in the book, you'd have to jump around to re Sheesh, this took way too long for me to get through! I had saved this biography for last out of a group of them I had gotten for Christmas, thinking it'd be the best but I was very wrong. There were of course some interesting parts such as the fashion but overall, it was much less interesting than I was expecting. Turns out Gabrielle was a bit of a fibber so there'd be 3 versions of major events in her life and rather than just including the true one in the book, you'd have to jump around to read all 3 which is not very fluid. There was also a bit more French War history than I preferred, just stick with the main topic, please!

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