CHANEL: Her Life, Her World--and the Woman Behind the Legend She Herself Created by Edmonde Charles-Roux

CHANEL: Her Life, Her World--and the Woman Behind the Legend She Herself Created

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Three years ago Marcel Haedrich, former editor of Marie Claire, wrote his faintly arch biography of Chanel; now Mme. Charles-Roux, former editor of the French Vogue, has retold her story at far more considerable length and it's a tres grand succes over there where the French are far readier to forgive their Chanel but also the tone passionne and sentimental hypothecation on the author's part. Nonetheless Gabrielle's story is an indomitable one--that of the tough and unschooled peasant girl (one of a clutch of ten) who was exacting, creative, romantic and became a personage in her own right moving through many glamorous milieus. One will never know just what happened when, since she cultivated the art of ""rendering herself unintelligible"" and truth could be as uneven as a hemline. After running through the already familiar parts of the story (the rich horseman who launched the little milliner; Boy Capel, the only love of her life, who stepped right out of an Arlen novel; her longstanding friendships with Cocteau, Stravinsky, Diaghilev; her titled lovers--the Grand Duke Dmitri and the Duke of Westminster) we get down to the most revelatory part of the book dealing with her activities during the Occupation--the love affair with a German Von. D., age 43 to her 56, and the dubious mission in conjunction with the SS' Walter Schellenberb which seems harder to write off unless you are Mme. Charles-Roux: ""Something very sad took Gabrielle to Berlin, a clutching hand from the depths of the interminable disappointment into which she felt herself sinking. What light can you turn to, when that kind of chill grips you. . . there is room only for Gabrielle's secret truth, made of melancholy and a dark despair."" Et enfin--such hyperbole, can it really exonerate? Still the enigma contributes to the controversial staying power of this conspicuously beautiful, demanding woman.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Knopf