Thanks to Netgalley for the early copy and to Blackstone for approving my request to read.
Well, The Queen of Paris gets two stars from me. First, the good. Pamela Bunnings Ewen writes beautifully. She uses lush prose and brings the beautiful scenery and luxury of Coco Chanel’s lifestyle to the page with astounding clarity. She has certainly done a thorough job with her research. That’s THE only reason I’m giving the book any stars.
Now, the bad. I somehow did not know that Coco Chanel was a Nazi Collaborator. I could blame that on not really being familiar or a fan girl of the Chanel brand, but my own ignorance is appalling. I requested this book because I figured it would be cool to learn about a woman who built a legacy long after she had passed on.
Coco seems like the type of woman who ruthlessly went for what she wanted. To the point of selfishness and at times, humiliation. This story does not depict a kind or even likable person in my eyes. It might just be the subject matter, but I could not find admiration in Coco’s choice to collaborate with Nazis, and even take a Nazi lover, even if it was to help her friends and family. I can understand her thought process, as it would be unimaginable to know that your friends and family were in the hands of terrible people (that you are also willingly sleeping with). But, I think the admiration for people in that time lies with the ones who did everything to survive and fight AGAINST the Nazi wishes.
This book made me realize that Coco Chanel was talented and commanding, but a terribly lonely social climber… willing to tear the world apart to suit her whims and fancies. I could find no joy in this book because of what I learned, but sadly, I know there’s plenty of people out there who are Chanel fans who will use this book as a means to heighten her pedestal.