Mademoiselle Chanel by CW Gortner. Historical fiction rich in detail about the rise of Coco Chanel from humble beginnings to fashion icon status.
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Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner

Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours for review consideration, opinions expressed are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you.

Mademoiselle Chanel Publication Date: Mar. 17, 2015
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Amazon Kindle* | Amazon Paperback*


“She revolutionized fashion and built an international empire . . . all on her own terms.

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her sisters are sent to a convent orphanage after their mother’s death. The nuns of the order nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that would propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Burning with ambition, the petite brunette transforms herself into Coco, by day a hard-working seamstress and by night a singer in a nightclub, where her incandescence draws in a wealthy gentleman who becomes 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, Coco’s sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As her reputation spreads, her couture business explodes, taking her into rarefied circles of society 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 always.

An enthralling novel about an entirely self-made woman, Mademoiselle Chanel tells the true story of Coco Chanel’s extraordinary ambition, passion, and artistic vision.”

Read an excerpt of Mademoiselle Chanel.

My Thoughts:

Mademoiselle Chanel is a historical fiction rich in detail about the rise of Coco Chanel from her difficult and humble beginnings to become the fashion icon whose influence we still see today. Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel learns to pour her heart and soul into her work at a young age, builds a protective barrier around her heart, and realizes the only one she can rely on is herself. Set in the early 1900’s, she is revolutionary wanting to become an entrepreneur instead of a wife and mother as society expects.

I am not what you would call a trend-setter or stylish person but I love living vicariously in the world of high fashion through the characters and scenery in this book. I was particularly fascinated by how Coco expanded her simple art of hat-making to her clothing and perfume empire of today. Coco had uncanny instincts for knowing the opportunities to pursue and the drive to show doubters just what she was made of. Her story inspires many a young women entrepreneur.

Set in France and partly in Italy during the turn of the 20th century, the book also explores her relationships with some of the greats in art and music during that time…Picasso, Monet, Stravinsky, Liszt. Coco’s networking proves fruitful to her in unexpected ways.

Mademoiselle Chanel was similar in style to 2 nonfiction books I enjoyed, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire. Emphasis is placed on and how the social, political and economical environment impacted Coco and her thriving empire. I was so captivated by the story and fashion world that I had to keep reminding myself that this is not a biography but in fact a work of fiction. Gortner did a marvelous job drawing me into Coco’s world and making me believe that every word about her in this book was true.

The detail did make this book take longer for me to read, (see update below) and truth be told I have not yet finished but am more than halfway through (and I won’t assign a star rating until I’m done). I do really enjoy this book and it’s on track to get a 4 star (I really like it).  I had to keep stopping to write down notes and quotes I love in my poorly neglected book journal. I didn’t want to forget any of the good stuff I can’t discuss on the blog because I do not give spoilers.  I’m so glad this book inspired me to dust off my book journal and get back to writing my true feelings about the books I’ve read and their endings. This book also made me want to go shopping, find new ways to update my wardrobe and is making me want to make a living doing something I love!

Mademoiselle Chanel has it all, a beautiful setting, drama, romance and a young spitfire who doesn’t let anyone stand in the way of her dreams.


I’ve finished the book and all I can is wow without giving you spoilers. The story turned and followed Coco through the Great Depression and World Wars. Not always making the easy decision, Coco is resilient, meets a cast of flamboyant characters and has a life that’s anything but ordinary. I flew through the second half of the book and she never ceased to amaze me. It was so interesting to see how a single woman could hold her own and influence powerful men with her no holds barred unconventional drive.

History was always my worst subject in school, I’d get bored by the dry, rote memorization of facts. Like a great teacher or professor who makes boring subjects interesting, Gortner’s lyrical writing captivated me to want to actually learn more about the elegant, enigmatic and unpredictable Coco Chanel and find out how much of this story is fact vs. fiction. Gortner strengthened my love for historical fiction with Mademoiselle Chanel and I look forward to reading other books by this author.

Reading Challenges

Travel the World in Books challenge- Set mainly in France (Paris, Deauville, Biarritz and Saint Cloud) and partly in Italy (Rome, Venice).

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing me a copy of this book for review! Be sure to stop by the other blogs on the tour too. 

tlc tour host

Do you enjoy historical fiction or books about fashion? What books do you recommend or want to read?

About C.W. Gortner

A former fashion executive, C. W. Gortner is a lifelong admirer of Coco Chanel. His passion for writing led him to give up fashion, and his many historical novels have been bestsellers, published in more than twenty countries. He lives in San Francisco.


  1. oh this makes me want to read the book, such a great review, and thanks for not posting spoilers. Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre. I love the Coco movie, so this book is right up my alley =)

  2. I really think historical fiction authors should teach history! There’s something about storytelling that makes history interesting!

    Thanks for being on the tour!

    1. Thanks for visiting C.W., I finished the book and updated my review. Wow, what a story! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and so glad to have been part of this tour.

  3. Oh this sounds like an interesting read for me! I will definitely put it on my list. Thanks for the review 🙂

    Happy Easter Sunday!

  4. Tanya this book sounds great. I love reading about the little person that rise above all and back themselves.
    I love the book “The Whitest Flower” by Brenda Graham. This book is set around the Great Famine of Ireland. If you have not read this Tanya I would highly recommend it. Amazon has it so maybe you could do a review of it.

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