The Chanel Sisters

Judithe Little. Graydon House, $17.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-525-89595-1
Little (Wickwythe Hall) imagines the relationship between Coco Chanel and her younger sister, Antoinette, in this admirable fictional biography. The story of the sisters’ onerous childhood begins in 1897 after their mother dies when they are 11 and eight, and their father, a wandering peddler, abandons the family and gives the girls to a convent orphanage. The author mines the girls’ austere upbringing by the nuns to show how they would later develop their fashion sensibility (“An insistence on craftsmanship, of stitches perfectly made. The calming contrast of black and white,” Antoinette observes), which is further stoked after their aunt shows them fashion magazines. Later chapters follow Coco’s trajectory from Paris hatmaker to fashion force of nature, as well as both sisters’ shifting fortunes in romance. Antoinette improves on the construction of Coco’s signature hats, while accepting Coco’s personal life as a well-kept mistress. Though aspects of each sister’s love lives occasionally come off as tiresome, the descriptions of the millinery trade are consistently fascinating. Little’s story of two indomitable women offers an eye-opening account of the unsung Antoinette and her pivotal role in her famed sister’s success. Fashion aficionados in particular will appreciate this take on the life of a legend. (Dec.)
Reviewed on : 09/18/2020
Release date: 12/29/2020
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 352 pages - 978-1-5258-0638-4
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