I had the opportunity to become introduced to the writings of Mr Gortner whilst I participated on his blog tour for The Tutor Vendetta, marking a special moment for me as it was Gortner’s writings which had first intrigued me to start hosting for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I had the chance to interview him about his writings and the Spymaster Trilogy, and now, only a handful of months since I first picked up a novel of his, I have the beautiful opportunity to dig inside an historical biographical fiction novel about Chanel! Chanel as I will reveal on my book review lateron tonight, held a key part of my personal growth with an affection for parfum which went back through my own maternal line of heritage without my realisation until I ‘met’ Chanel via a novel which changed my life.
I wanted to ask Mr Gortner about what inspired him to focus on Chanel but also, on how Chanel’s life has continued to have an impact on everyone who crosses path with either her personal history of what she’s left behind for us to discover about her or a part of her legacy in the fashion and/or parfum industries where she not only set a certain standard but directly had an impact on the direction of where both industries were going to break out into new territories.
It was further interesting to me, the synopsis for Mademoiselle Chanel mentions a previous novel I have held quite close to my heart: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald as I had the pleasure of reading and discovering Zelda through such an authentic voice as portrayed in her biographical fiction novel from Therese Fowler as to be full of thanksgiving for the novel to cross my path via the First Impressions programme at Book Browse. I believe this speaks to the authenticity of the work as a whole, as I had previously encountered Gortner’s passionate dedication to research in the Spymaster series, and this tip-off with Chanel, gave me a bit of insight of what I might find inside the pages herein.
You see Zelda wasn’t simply spoken about in a third person point of view or a narration thus far removed from her living hours; no, to me Zelda’s voice was captured so surely by Fowler as to give definition to her character and a direct line of insight into who Zelda was whilst she was alive. On this note, I am perceiving the same must have been felt by early readers and the editors on behalf of Gortner’s take on Chanel. To knit together such a convincing portrait as if Chanel herself were echoing her thoughts directly into the pen of Gortner and thus, presenting us with a story which speaks as true as the woman who lived the life.
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.
Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner