Little black dresses. Fake pearls. Jersey knit. Blazers. Ballet flats. Today - and for nearly the last hundred years - we all see some version of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel every time we pass a woman on the street. But few among us realize that Chanel’s role in the events of the 20th century was as pervasive as her influence on fashion, or how deeply she absorbed and then brilliantly reimagined the historical currents around her. Here, with unprecedented detail and ambition - and through fascinating, thoroughly researched portraits of Chanel’s lovers and friends - Rhonda Garelick shows us the Chanel who conquered the world: a woman who thirsted to create others in her image, who ruthlessly and innovatively borrowed from her famous (and infamous) intimates, who understood the idea of branding and image well ahead of her time, who created "wearable personality". This is Chanel at the nexus of history: a woman of daring, passion, and legendary vision, in a wonderful biography that gives her long-awaited due.
©2014 Original material by Rhonda Garelick (P)2014 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
I almost didn't write a review here because my feelings about this biography are so negative that I thought I would skip the write up. I wondered frequently while listening why the author chose Chanel as the subject for her book. To me, it was completely clear from the start that Garelick disliked Chanel. As the book progressed the story took on a feeling of nastiness and a tone of "truth telling"-- with the goal being exposing Chanel for who she really was. This judgmental perspective seemed overly one sided and as such disturbed me.
If you have seen the movie Coco Before Chanel know that you will see a different woman in that movie than what the first four chapters of this bio presents. In fact, the writing here was so flat and non descriptive that the only way I could begin to picture Chanel's early life was through memories I had of distant scenes from the movie. Don't go into this book expecting a life painted beautifully in words by the author. Instead, Chanel is presented as a truly terrible person, a habitual liar, a prostitute and a thief. Be aware that these attributes only scratch the surface of the life story told in this biography.
Even worse than this--the writing takes the form of "telling" or talking at the reader rather than the more complex form of "showing" the story with character driven action and dialogue. Couple this with Gilbert's poor French and over the top narration and you have, for me, a deadly combination.
In the end I feel I wasted too much time listening to a tattletale gossip. Further, I am left wondering if Chanel really was such a villain? Are there no shades of grey in this harsh black and white story? Maybe not.
Oh my God!!! the physiological power of this brand reshaped my outlook on life!!! I was about to dive first into Chanel fashion, but now I understand that designers truly reflect themselves and their beliefs in
their brands. being black, I know Chanel was not meant for me, but I absolutely respect her journey.
The book is very engaging. It is written in a way that allows you to envision the feel of fabric. It is not a sugar coated biography but a panoramic view of a real woman responding to epic changes in her society, country and the world stage.
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