Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel

Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel

by C. W. Gortner


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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 become one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century.

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to 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 woman 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062356437
Publisher: HarperCollins US
Publication date: 12/29/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 108,038
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

C. W. Gortner is the author of many bestselling historical novels—including Mademoiselle Chanel—which have been published in more than twenty countries. He lives in San Francisco.

Customer Reviews

Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And of course having just finished reading Mademoiselle Chanel, I have found myself enchanted once again. I found this book completely engaging. I think it was extremely well written, covering all of Coco Chanel's life yet written so that you read it as if you were in the rooms, living and experiencing everything with her. There was just enough of each piece of her life to ensnare you in what was going to happen next, yet you never feel like too much time was spent dwelling. As a fluent speaker of French, I loved all the French mixed into the book and the descriptions of the different locales she visited/ lived plus I appreciated that I knew so many of the characters that she entertained. It was interesting to see all of the interconnections. Of course the descriptions of all of her fashions ran throughout the novel. There's such an amazing amount of history, characters and fashion intertwined in this book!
Griperang72 More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed other books by this author so when I saw that he was writing about Coco Chanel I was excited to read this book. I have enjoyed Coco's history and find she is a strong woman. She had to overcome her childhood to become who she eventually became. Mr. Gortner did a great job with his research as well as the way he wrote this book it just flowed. There is so much more to Coco than just the fashion designer and the author makes sure all that is told in his book. I recommend this book to you if you like biographies or books about strong women. I am happy that Mr. Gortner chose to write the story of Mademioselle Chanel for us. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Coco Chanel. I know only about the little black dress and the perfume. She was so much more, a survivor, a famous fashion designer , a manipulator of men and a clever business woman. She really was ahead of her times . A fascinating woman. I can understand why so much has been written about her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read many other books about Chanel and most of those I have not finished. Once I started reading this book I could not put it down. It is a real page turner and you will look forward to every chapter. I finished this book in a just a few days and was slightly sad when it was over because I just wanted to keep reading more. Hopefully the author will write more fashion icon books in the near future. This is a must read for every Chanel fan. Even if your not a Chanel fan you will enjoy reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Her endurance during such terrible times is amazing. She was a very strong, determined and compassionate woman. She loved what she stood for and kept the everyday woman fashionably dressed. Very well written. I could not stop reading.
browneye More than 1 year ago
Interesting story - she was quite a person - not at all as I thought of her. Well written description of her life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely enjoyable. If you love Chanel, you will not be disappointed. So well written. I will now seek this author for my reading pleasure. Worth every cent
wordsandpeace More than 1 year ago
Stunning! 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. 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. 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. 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!
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Famous artists frequently refuse to be defined, classified, or placed in society’s tidy box of approval.  Coco Chanel, renowned designer of classic clothing, accessories and perfume, is an enigmatic delight as depicted in this novel by perceptive and sensitive historical novelist, C. W. Gortner.   Gabrielle’s parents are deeply in love but her paternal grandmother rejects Gabrielle’s mother.  Her mother in turn loves her daughter but says she is unable to live with her.  So searching and yearning for love followed by rejection seems to be a pattern that Gabrielle will follow until she meets the true love of her love, Arthur Capel or “Boy,” a relationship that is treasured because with it comes respect and treatment as an equal, competent professional woman.  The latter trait is not one encouraged in pre-WWII France but Gabrielle’s relationships yield financial and emotional freedom on her own terms.   Thus begins an astonishing career in which Gabrielle begins her first shop where she is allowed to design everything but dresses.  Her styles, like the change in her name, jettison her into fame as a designer who isn’t afraid to risk her business for what she believes.  Cocoa often stated that women should dress elegantly, simply, sleekly, with some low-keyed jewelry or scarf accessories.  These were memorialized in the Chanel black suit, the sexy but simple black dress, and the famous Chanel No. 5 perfume that has solidly sold from its creation to the present. Coco’s career conflicts and troubles are intimately described herein, some of which she handled with creative ideas and some which she lost and mourned.  Competition was fierce and even some of her own colleagues and workers tried to bring about her demise, literally by law and figuratively through slander.   Although Coco was judged and demeaned as a Nazi collaborator, Gortner depicts her connection to the Nazi’s with a higher purpose and mysterious misunderstanding in covert circumstances that force the reader to suspend judgment.  The artist manages a comeback even after years of exile in Switzerland.   While other writers have published their own books about Coco Chanel, C. W. Gortner has written a masterful portrait that is engaging and intriguing on every page celebrating Chanel’s intelligent, creative and beautiful clothing.  This reader was truly sad at the ending of this novel, an ending that mourns the passing of a passionate, brilliant, talented and incomparable woman.  Delightful historical fiction and so, so highly recommended! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoughtful well written & enjoyable
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written and engaging, this novel had me hiding in the bathroom, reading at lunch break, and going to bed early. I love all things Chanel. I grew up smelling her number 5 and pursuing Vogue. If only I could afford more than one bag and the perfume. Chanel the woman has left an indelible mark due to this riveting account. She is a feminist of the first rank, and a woman whose life I now admire.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the historical perspective and character development. It was entertaining and interesting. I may have to buy some Chanel#5.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating woman
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very fascinating and true to life story. Extremely well written as are all of this author’s books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mesmerizing, I could not put it down. Wonderful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is so well told. The book is so well written. I throughly enjoyed reading this. I have read other books about her life and nothing compared to this one. I had to slow my reading down so as to make the story last. I purchased a copy as a gift for a who also savored the wonderfully written story of Coco. Thank you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book for the most part. Learned a lot of new and unexpected things about coco chanel who is a fascinating individual. However far too much of the book is dedicated to world war 2. I felt like it just dragged on, and on, and on. This book could have easily been trimmed by 100 pages. 470 pages is far too many for this book. It becomes boring, repetitive, and extremely dry
SherreyM More than 1 year ago
Exquisitely written, well researched, truly Gortner “Simplicity,” I said, “is true elegance. A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed. Her clothing should be seen only after she herself is.” I confess to little knowledge of the life of Gabriella Bonheur Chanel aka Coco Chanel. The knowledge I do have is the credit given Chanel for the little black dress, pearls, and Chanel No. 5. Hoping to learn more about her world, I visited my local library and checked out a copy of Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner. Gortner is best known for his historical novels set in the 16th century about famous women of the time period. How would Gortner handle the jump from the 16th to the 20th century? Incredibly well. Writing the story of Chanel’s rise in the Paris fashion district likely didn’t present Gortner with many difficulties. With a background in the fashion industry, he brings to the page the tiny details of design, construction, and retailing. As always, Gortner’s research is meticulously performed recreating the poverty Chanel grew up in as well as how that poverty shaped her later in life. Through the lack of the needs for living as a child made Chanel into a woman not to be undone or owned. Gortner manages to show this while at the same time sharing her questioning about why she felt this way. Those readers who enjoy stories about important women in history will love Gortner’s Mademoiselle Chanel, who is also an important figure in the fashion history. In my opinion, reading such well-researched history through fiction is an enjoyable read. Reading it through the pen of C.W. Gortner is delicious!
nookbookreader22 More than 1 year ago
Loved this book and didn't want it to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderfully written novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First I must say I thoroughly enjoy this author's work. The writing has such a charming flare, and how wise to base a drama off of a real life drama of an iconic lady, who lived in interesting times. Who wrestled with what's expected and what she desired. I didn't agree with many decisions made by Coco Chanel (not that she would have cared), but I was impressed by her resilience, her ability not pass judgment on others and to stay true to herself. This is the real story of a woman of substance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an exciting look into the world of fashion and beautiful people, even when they aren't really beautiful. Enjoyed it a lot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful in every way, this book will bring you joy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting subject. Grew a little tired of the self absorbed main character.