Saturday 5 January 2013

Coco Chanel The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie

There's something about her.

The rags to riches story.

The secrets, lies and urban myths.

The glamour, the romance, the heartbreak.

And, of course, Paris. Ahhh, Paris!

I had been saving Justine Picardie's book for my summer holidays because I knew that I would want to read it in one greedy gulp!

I loved the numerous photos and etchings thoughout the book. I enjoyed Justine's friendly conversational tone as she tried to unravel the mysteries & lies that surrounded Chanel's early years in particular. I enjoyed her descriptions of Chanel's various homes & work places and how the childhood places influenced so many of her later designs and motifs (even as she tried to deny ever being there).

Coco was a complex, complicated, secretive woman.

She spent so much energy covering up, trying to keep track of what story she had told who, justifying, reinventing and just plain lying about everything to everyone (including herself I suspect). These lies caused her so many problems with her lovers, friends and colleagues that at the end, she found herself alone and lonely without really understanding why.

It's quite a sad story really. All that glamour, all those famous names, the riches and success didn't bring Coco happiness. She may have been true to herself, but she was never honest, open or true to anyone else.

Nowadays she would probably be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder!

Fifteen years ago I read Edmunde Charles-Roux's biography with a very similar reaction. Fascination tempered with pity. Because at the end of both books I simply felt sorry for Coco. And I sensed that both Justine and Edmunde felt the same by the end of their research.

Was her nephew really her son? Did she collaborate with the Germans during WW2?
No-one will ever know for sure.
Coco took those secrets to her grave.

She was a remarkable woman who achieved great things despite the odds (or maybe because of the odds). Some of the things that made Coco great where also her greatest flaws. Her story is truly captivating.

I for one, am not done with Coco!


  1. Anonymous7/1/13

    I remember my mother always asks for Chanel 5 whenever I come home on vacation from college.

    Maybe I should look up her biography.

    1. There's also Marilyn Monroe's famous quote when asked by a reporter what she wore to bed she replied "Chanel No 5"!

  2. I should read a bio about her. Have you watched the movie "Coco Before Chanel"? I enjoyed it! Loved her style.


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