Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner

Our book club received copies of Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner through our participation in Book Club Girls. It is the story of Coco Chanel’s life told through an historical fiction lens. 

Coco Chanel was a innovative and groundbreaking designer whose designs are still worn today. She lived through some very hard times in history. Neither of these two facts can be disputed, What is controversial is what were her motives and what did she actually do in World War II.

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.
— C.W. Gortner, Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel

This book is well written, with strong characters and compelling storyline. Gortner’s background in design comes through in his descriptions of Chanel’s designs and clothing, down to the details of her inspirations. In Gortner’s Coco we see a strong, talented, complicated woman. The life portrayed is intriguing and believable and compellingly readable. 

What we do not earn ourselves,” he said, “is never truly ours. It can always be taken away. But even if we lose everything we work for, the achievement is ours forever.
— C.W. Gortner, Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel

Some of our members felt that in this telling Chanel’s life was “white washed” and that maybe the author was so admiring of Chanel that he saw her through rose colored glasses. That said we have to remember, this is a work of Historical Fiction. When I read historical fiction I am looking for a glimpse of history that will spurn my interest and leave me with questions wanting to know more. Something that makes me want to dig deeper and find out what is true and what is fictional. Mademoiselle Chanel did that for me.

his book made for a great discussion and I would recommend it to all book clubs. For discussion questions and additional material check our Mademoiselle Chanel page.