“Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life”

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Author: Justine Picardie
ASIN: B0045F8G4I

Why did I read it? I’ve always had a fascination with this self-made woman, and I remember reading a review of the paperback version of this book on a blog a few years back, and thinking I must read it. When I saw it was available in audio form, I took the opportunity to select it for my commute.

What’s it about? It’s a factual biography of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, better known as Coco Chanel, the orphaned girl who rose to be one of the most famous names in fashion, if not the most famous; credited for the creation of simple, elegant, comfortable designs, most notably the “little back dress” now considered an essential item in any wardrobe.

What did I like? It was a book focussed on revealing truth and facts. I did learn some things about Chanel I had not known before. There were attempts at avoiding speculation.  The audio version downloaded from Audible was clear, and without fault.

What didn’t I like about this book? Where to start? This audio book annoyed me immensely, and I think it may have started with the narrator, Cassandra Harwood, whose voice droned through each sentence making it hard to concentrate on the information being presented. I don’t speak French, but I can only hope the times she employed that language she did better than with the English, when words were mispronounced (e.g. subsidising, instead of subsiding) and there was no attempt at emphasis, or any kind of tonal variance in her speech. Had the text been more interesting, perhaps her voice might not have grated as much, alas …

The book was full of facts, but much of the book seemed to stray into the lives of those around Chanel. At one point, it seemed as those quite a few pages had been dedicated to the wife of a lover and, try as I might, I failed to grasp as to why this information had been necessary to the book, as it apparently had no bearing on Chanel’s life itself.

I think that was the focus of my dislike of the book: very little on the woman herself, with far too much about friends, family, business associates, and acquaintances. I felt the book really could have been a lot shorter, with the cutting of the extraneous information.

Would I recommend it? I wanted to enjoy this book, I really though I would, but I didn’t, and I feel any reader would think their time better spent on other books.

Rating:  ★★☆☆☆

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