Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life – The Book Review

I recently joined a book club and I’m looking forward to get into a reading routine again. First book of the year, was my pick: Coco Chanel, An Intimate Life by Lisa Chaney

I was excited, since I love biographies, fashion and love learning about the history of how an icon like Gabrielle Chanel came to be, in detail. 

Overall consensus? My book club hated Coco. Most of them didn’t read it and the rest didn’t get through the entire thing. I had preached to the wrong crowd.

My consensus? I liked it! 

Pushing through the first few chapters of Gabrielle’s life was a bit cumbersome. The facts of the book are heavy and sometimes the author goes into areas of Coco’s life that may be irrelevant to the reader who’s interested in hers alone. This is the part where most of the girls didn’t care for and therefore if they didn’t have a genuine interest in fashion or the designer, like I did, they quit the book.

Stephanie, who read the whole book goes onto say:

“I found Chanel to be a hard read with a lot of unnecessary historical facts. The author seemed to be filling pages with irrelevant information about characters that were only around for one or two chapters and didn’t add to the story. There were a lot names thrown out throughout the book and I found it very hard to keep it all straight. I wouldn’t recommend it, however I did end up liking it more as I kept reading. It will be a long time before I pick up another biography.” 

However Lauren, who did not get past chapter eight, colorfully describes:

“I hated this book so much that I can’t imagine anyone getting joy and excitement out of it. In addition, I would like the 2.5 hours (roughly 10 minutes a night, four times a week, over the course of a month) I spent reading this book back!”

For me, the history was interesting and I enjoyed reading about the journey Gabrielle went through to become Coco. Though I must admit, personally, by the end of the book, I wasn’t too fond of Coco herself. I thought her personality was too hard and I got the sense that if I had known her in real life I might not have liked her, or even be friends with her. 

Her life was so hard from beginning to end, and more so than seeing her as the legendary icon designer most of us know her as today, her life was quite tragic and lonely. She was a very troubled woman who happen to know the right people at the right time, she also had the drive, inspiration and attitude to use her resources and get ahead.

Regardless of how I feel about the woman personally, there is no denying that Gabrielle was an inspiration to those who came after her. She showed the world that fashion doesn’t need permission from society, it’s unapologetic and daring. She was one of the great creative visionaries of her time, a woman who endured hardships, yet she never allowed them to stop her, they actually motivated her to get further in her career. She had a goal, a purpose and for that I’m thankful I was able to know her story.

“Fashion is always of the time in which you live. It is not something standing alone. But the grand problem, the most important problem, is to rejuvenate women. To make women look young. Then their outlook changes. They feel more joyous.” 

– Coco Chanel

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