Blog Book Tour | “Mademoiselle Chanel” by C.W. Gortner An innovator who was self-motivated to change the way in which we not only view fashion but how fashion can be definitively original unto our own style.

Posted Friday, 3 April, 2015 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Mademoiselle Chanel” virtual book tour through France Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

My connection to Chanel:

My fascination with Chanel took center-stage when I selected my first Rosamunde Pilcher novel to read {The Shell Seekers} giving me a window into the world of Chanel No. 5. I had briefly hinted at this connection whilst tweeting Mr Gortner in January after learning I had become a part of the blog tour for Chanel. (the tweets are in a slideshow at the bottom of this review) I was fourteen and starting to seek out adult literature in all it’s glory after having read Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton the year before when I was thirteen. I had reached the point where I was separating myself from what I had read as a young adult and what I wanted to shift forward into as an adult reader.

Romance was in my life ever since I first picked up the novella collections featuring Victorian Christmas stories penned by leading authors in the field such as Mary Jo Putney. I wanted to seek out new genres and other ways in which stories were told, which is why The Shell Seekers held such an appeal to me. It was a unique novel as it was practically a time slip as much as it was a multiple point of view story told from different pairs of eyes per each chapter you entered. It was part war drama and part multi-generational saga, yet at the heart of it all was the discovery of Chanel No. 5.

I hadn’t realised it at the time, but this novel in particular led me to realise how much I appreciated reading historical fiction, although a few years prior I should have known this after reading Judith Pella’s Frontier Lady. It was the scent of Chanel No. 5 which staid with me as I read the novel itself — it is hard to describe how I even would have known the scent, but as I read the story, I smelt the parfum, and that is the easiest way to explain it. I was so stirred by the emotional context of the novel shortly thereafter I had put the book down, I immediately sought out the parfum!

I had seen the Chanel counter at the malls, as much as anyone else, but I hadn’t connected to the scent of the fragrances themselves. The Shell Seekers provided the gateway yet it also proposed a dialogue of conversation revealing a particular unknown connection through my maternal line of heritage! Apparently, long before my own encounter with Chanel No. 5, my grandmother and mother had long since held this fragrance as their most beloved scent! It was at this time the torch was thus passed down to me, and I inherited my Mum’s bottle of the fragrance which I used sparingly until it ran out in my early twenties. The scent itself smelt differently on me, as it was very subtle and yet unique, and this is when I learnt the most about parfum; to each wearer our own chemistry changes how it is reflected to those who smell it on us.

I haven’t been able to wear it after this moment of my life as I started to develop allergies to most commercial fragrances, however, even as I use essential oils I still have very fond memories of Chanel and of Chanel No. 5. It united me with a legacy of how three women in my own family came across Chanel No. 5 in our own uniquely different ways and found a connection through the parfum itself. If I hadn’t picked up The Shell Seekers and been drawn in by the allure of Chanel No. 5, this story of my life would not have been written. Nor would I have known how others reacted to when I wore the fragrance as no one knew it was this particular scent, only that when I wore it, I was known. Anonymity was gone.

Blog Book Tour | “Mademoiselle Chanel” by C.W. Gortner An innovator who was self-motivated to change the way in which we not only view fashion but how fashion can be definitively original unto our own style.Mademoiselle Chanel

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.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

on St. Patrick's Day, 2015

Pages: 416

Published By: William Morrow (@WmMorrowBks),
an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (@HarperCollins)
Available Formats: Hardback, Unabridged Audiobook, Ebook

Converse on Twitter via: #MademoiselleChanel, #CocoChanel

Author Biography:CW Gortner

C.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.


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Coco Chanel:

Her earlier years were strife with difficulties originating out of the fact her Mum took ill and her father, for reasons only he would understand took it upon himself to work in order to avoid the family altogether. He was a gypsy of a man, constantly on the move, never settling down and not one for feeling he had responsibilities to keep him with his family. Chanel was nearly jaded from a young age against the insecurities and the hardships life afforded her, but what I found to be such a heart-moving moment of her life is how a convent-run orphanage truly changed her stars!

It was within the walls of the convent itself she started to see how much her life was changing for the better, wherein she didn’t have to worry about shelter, food, security, or the warmth of being in a place which was soundly built and maintained. She could focus instead on the routine of her hours and seeking ways in which to defy her chores by gaining ground in the hidden world of books. Self-motivated to read and find the worlds within stories which allowed her the grace to see past her convent’s shield from the world outside it, she gained perspective.

If there is even a small measure of truth in how she created Chanel No. 5 as Gortner relates the story behind the parfum in Act Four beginning on page 185, I must say I was impressed! She singularly knew her choices would be based on her instincts, she trusted them and she trusted her judgment when it came to knowing what she wanted. I was curious on the history of the ‘number 5’ threaded into her back-story at the orphanage as I had noted it at the time, as it was reflected back upon again during this chapter. Whether by fate or an inspiration on Gortner’s behalf, what is most enticing is how the formula itself and the number representing it affected Chanel. Again, it was a clear insight into how her passion fuelled her line and how passion instilled so much fire of light into her life.

My Review of Mademoiselle Chanel:

Chanel is presented to us as a seventy year old designer who is still a bit marred by critics and the queasiness which associates with putting your heart and your soul on the line for the work you give to the world’s stage. Giving such a large part of yourself to the public has it’s devious boomerangs which hit you at times where confidence and self-assurance is more akin to what your seeking than self-agony spun out of uncertainty. Chanel is on the brink of re-affirming who she is at an age where most would have stopped believing a reinvention were possible; she constantly had an innate need to prove to herself she could do what she set her mind to accomplish, and in this, she created the most compassionate way to enter our hearts.

She is giving us a window into how fragile her own spirit was in daring to be as individual as she could in order to prove a point; not just to herself, but to the industry itself.

Chanel was an ingénue of modern self-education, as to her the seeking of knowledge was paramount to her well-being, as she constantly defied her elders by sneaking books into her heart and mind! I loved her defiance on what she was able to soak into her soul and spirit as a way to enrich her understanding of fashion and the order in which society placed itself in her era of time. She learnt the most by seeking the historical accurate stories of the aristocracy where she not only envisioned what they wore as royals but of whom were allowed to be in court such as courtesans; the choices of fabric and style were inherently observed by her creative mind.

Even before she realised her gift, she was already becoming known for a creative who saw everything differently to the masters of their craft; where one person saw tradition, Chanel saw innovation. Where one person saw eloquence out of complex designs, Chanel took the chance to simplify the design in order to strike a balance between the object and the statement being presented through the design itself. Chanel took risks in her own way and nature, but I don’t believe she saw herself as a risk taker as much as a person who truly lived on her own terms the majority of the time. This is best seen during her years with the nuns, but it was the fuelling of her courage lasting throughout her lifetime. I marvelled at how her mind processed the method of seeking out a new style, as she took the same notions and supplies everyone else had before their own hands, but it is how her mind created her style, her vision for what a woman could conceive to create in this new era of fashion, which staid with me the most!

Chanel’s sharp tongue and wit opened doors as much as it took her peers unaware of the fact her motives were not entirely pure in nature but they were the tools of a surviver who was not bent on suffering fools. She spoke her mind as frank as any woman of her generation might dare to do, although it shouldn’t have been as remarkable as I am sure it felt back then; women from all eras have defied the odds stacked in front of them to become remarkable forerunners in their fields to inspire change and progress. Chanel was simply a shining light in her area of France and moving the tides in the direction of where she felt she could aspire to do the most good at her trade.

She found what we would consider ‘angel investors’ who would back her efforts to take her hats and her uniquely different set of fashions to market; they were inspired by her champion of non-conformity designs, and the freedom of being unhinged by bindings worn only to restrict the movements of the female body rather than accent it’s shape or definition therein. Chanel was leading women out of the fashion’s dark ages where restrictions were norm and finding texture, shape, and style out of traditional past was definitely a ‘new era’ unproven to bank a return on investment.

It rankled Chanel’s sense of logic to establish a ‘parfum’ of her own line, as she was a fashion designer not a perfumer, yet it is due to Americans seeking a ‘scent’ of Chanel to inspire her to step outside her own box of cards to create something to allure travellers from across the Pond to purchase more of her line than a mere scent she felt might be a bit beneath her to create. Chanel was fantastic at defining herself, she saw the world in white and black, very few times yielding when she fixed her mind on something; yet when it came to commerce and sales, she brooded whilst she planned. It is within this nexus of planning she rooted out the way in which to proceed with her own aspirations whilst giving the public a bit of something they were demanding of her to produce. She walked a line of balance I think few might have considered for themselves.

Chanel lived hard and loved deeply, but it was how her life unfolded around her shoulders I am not as sure if she was prepared to handle in advance. Like most of us, she put on a brave face but when her heart quaked she felt everything quite deep within her spirit, affecting her work but mostly, affecting the way in which her heart healed. She took opportunities as they arrived, she apologised not for her choices, (in her personal or business affairs), but she endeavoured always to lead with her passion.

What I found quite extraordinary is how the French turnt their backs on Chanel; she survived not only the World Wars, but she came back to the top of her game in the golden years of her life only to be met with obnoxious criticism for being herself. Ingenuity was her cornerstone of her career, she reconstructed the right of a woman to live freely in fashion as much as in life, giving her credence and credit to shaping how women would view themselves in the clothes and accessories they would wear to reveal a part of themselves they might not have had courage to present otherwise.

The notations in the author’s note at the end of the novel were most striking of all — how Gortner relayed the information about how America salvaged Chanel from the turn-screws of critics in France, and helped her continue forward when she would have otherwise had to retire. She did not warm to America as easily as one would have felt she might for their dedication to her creations but it is with America backing her Chanel found one cardinal truth: sometimes in order to succeed you have to leave your country of origin and align yourself with people who believe in your dreams.

How Gortner fused Chanel into the context of the novel:

Chanel had an enduring spirit about her, where her moxie for living life on her own terms started at such a young age, I believe it’s this feisty nature that allowed her to survive. Gortner has painted her quite clearly inside Mademoiselle Chanel as her voice demands to be heard even if in her early years she was not as certain as what she wanted to declare. Peppering Chanel’s own words and thoughts per each chapter installment which sets the course for a new ‘block of years’ chronicling the fashion designer’s life, Gortner puts a foreword thought ahead of each new set of narrative revelations. I appreciated seeing Chanel’s words included and as a precursor to where I would travel next within the tome of her life.

It is commendable how strikingly real Chanel comes across on the page, as Gortner’s own appreciation on Chanel’s behalf not only helped channel her to the reader, but draw out her innermost spirit for who she was as she was amongst the living. It’s a benefit to those of us who appreciate digging into a biography set against a fictional exploit rather than a more technical account of her days. I find biographical fiction of this nature helps transfix us into the person more directly, as we’re centered inside their internal thoughts whilst visualising their worlds as if we are either taking over their shoes directly or seeing them just outside their circle from close proximity.

Prior to reading Gortner’s take on Chanel, I have appreciated consuming portions of other strong women who sought to be wholly original and fiercely original in the art which shaped their lives: Zelda Fitzgerald in Z by Therese Fowler; Josephine Bonaparte in Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb; Camille Claudel in Rodin’s Lover by Heather Webb; Hildegard von Bingen in Illuminations by Mary Sharratt; Betsy Bonaparte in The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatien; and the women behind Edgar Allan Poe in Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen. Each time I have tackled one of these stories I have become dearly attached to the ‘voice’ of the lead characters, as they have such a tendency to be as real to me as if the person were sitting across from me as tea is being served. This is a credit to the writers who take-on the incredible undertaking of giving their heart to their work and research but also to the women (and yes, there are men who have become re-envisioned in this way I appreciate too, such as Charlemagne!) who sought to forge out of their conventional social classes and re-aspire to take life on by their own terms.

This is a very exciting time for a reader, because Gortner and other writers like him are enticing us with their writings whilst giving us such a clarity of insight into the women who should be celebrated by all for the legacies they left behind to inspire each of us to find strength in our own uniqueness which gives back a light to the next generation.

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This book review was courtesy of: France Book Tours:

{ click-through to find the road map for the tour }

I hosted a Guest Post on behalf of Chanel for this tour ahead of this review.

Mademoiselle Chanel blog tour with France Book Tours

Be sure to check out my Bookish Events for (2015)
Upcoming next on behalf of:

France Book Tours

My review of “Quicksand” will be on (20th April), as I borrowed the first two novels in the series via ILL (inter-library loan) in order to understand the flow and pace of the character’s journey.

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Reader Interactive Question:
What draws your curiosity to pick up a novel of biographical fiction and step inside the shoes and soul of a person who lived in order to better acquaint yourself with not only their life but the way in which life was lived during their era!? What drew you specifically to having an attachment to Coco Chanel!?

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Mademoiselle Chanel”, book synopsis, author photograph of C.W. Gortner, author biography, the blog tour badge were all provided by France Book Tours and used with permission. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. France Book Tours badge created by Jorie in Canva. Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2015.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 3 April, 2015 by jorielov in 19th Century, 20th Century, Adoption, Belle Epoque Era, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Bookish Discussions, Coco Chanel, Courtesan & Cocottes, Equality In Literature, Fashion Fiction, Fashion Industry, France, France Book Tours, French Literature, Historical Fiction, History, Parfum Industry, Reader Submitted Guest Post (Topic) for Author, Realistic Fiction, the Edwardian era, the Roaring Twenties

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