The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little - 2020
In July of 2015 I read and was fascinated by Mademoiselle Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda Garelick. For sure Coco Chanel (1883 to 1971) is one of if not the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. Worldwide her influence on fashion is tremendous. When I started reading Garelick's superb biography I knew very little about Coco Chanel. Upon reaching the end I felt I had been taken deeply into the psyche and life of an incredibly creative woman, a business genius who created from nothing a fashion and perfume empire worth billions of dollars, a woman who began life as an orphan and ended it atop the fashion universe. I also saw a complex, deeply troubled and very much a flawed woman. I admired her to a degree but found her often very selfish, insecure and I find her anti-Semiticism despicable. I am convinced by the information in this book that Chanel did not just collaborate with the Nazis but tried to use the antiJewish laws they put in place to cheat the Jewish family that bought ninety percent of the rights to her famous perfume, Chanel # 5 from her.
Coco (Gabrilla) Chanel is the most influential fashion designer of all times. In the side bar of my blog there are four writers wearing Chanel inspired clothing. She, as vividly
potrayed in Judithe Little’s marvelous histotical fiction, rose from the depths of poverty to incredible wealth based on her talent, drive and creativity.
I greatly enjoyed Reading The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little.
The Three Chanel Sisters - abandoned by their father, their mother deceased were left in a Pensionnat, an orphange/ School run by Catholic nuns.
September 11, 1882: Julia-Berthe Chanel is born
August 19, 1883: Gabrielle Chanel, later known as Coco, is born
June 14, 1887: Antoinette Chanel is born
1902 (est.) Coco and Antoinette leave the Pensionnat and begin to work as seamstresses, for which they were trained. From this humble start, with the help of a very wealthy man, Coco will build her huge fortune. She learned the hard way to never rely totolly on anyone else. Men will leave you, just as her father did her and her sisters, marry somone else or die. She liked her men tall, rich, thin and with a title. She never married.
There is a very useful timeline included at the close of The Chanel Sisters, from which the dates above are taken.
The story is told from the point of view of Antoinette Chanel. Unlike Coco, not much is known about her personal life. Little creates romances she might have had from what might have developed from the wealthy men she met through working as Coco’s second in charge. It was exciting to see the sucess of Coco, starting out as just a hat maker and getting wealthier by the day as she expands into clothing.
The story ends just after May 2, 1921: Antoinette Chanel dies in Buenos Aires at the former Majestic Hotel. The cause of death is listed as “intoxicación,” or poisoning. Little creates a very exciting but tragic account of why she was there.
We do miss out on the further huge sucess of Coco, her rise to international super star status as well as her possible flirtation with The Nazis during World War Two, her post year time living in Switzerland and her return to France.
“Judithe is the award-winning author of two historical novels, The Chanel Sisters and Wickwythe Hall.
She grew up in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. After studying at the Institute of European Studies and the Institut Catholique in Paris, France, and interning at the U.S. Department of State, she earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law where she was on the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Law and a Dillard Fellow. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and three children, where she is working on her third novel. When she’s not writing or practicing law, Judithe enjoys riding horses, reading, scouring the fields during Round Top Antiques Week, and volunteering. “ from judithelittle.COM