COCO, THE NOVEL by Patricia B. Soliman


Email this review


Soliman, editor to the likes of Jackie Collins and Zsa Zsa Gabor, debuts with a busy novel based on the life of Coco Chanel. Alternately narrated by Coco and by her intimates, this mini-series-ready drama is carefully built around documented events (as described more soberly in Axel Madsen's biography, Chanel: A Woman of Her Own, p. 486) but adorned with descriptions of champagne and soft fabrics and great sex. The teen. age Coco is a skilled seamstress in the provincial city of Moulin. A cavalry man falls for her and introduces her around; soon she outgrows him and moves in with the great love of her life, ""Boy"" Capel, who gives her the financial and moral support to launch her new design house. During the happy years with Boy, Coco makes lifelong friends (Diaghilev, Cocteau and her best friend/rival, the gorgeous and bisexual Misia Sert) and becomes a fixture on the Parisian scene. When Boy makes a politically astute marriage, Coco continues to see him, even designing dresses for his child-bride. Then, however, Boy is killed in an accident, and while Coco mourns him for years, her business flourishes. The wildly wealthy Duke of Westminster courts her, but their long affair breaks up when she can't give him an heir. She indulges in odd political machinations during WW II, and continues to design dresses and captivate men until her death at 87. The requisite elements--sex, rivalry, manipulation, and loss--are all here, and the revolutionary ideas of Chanel and her artistic gang are paid due lip-service. What's missing is psychological insight into the designer's charm and astonishing drive. The alternating narrators all sound exactly the same, and describe events rather than personal perspectives. Still, an untaxing portrait of a compelling subject.

Pub Date: July 17th, 1990
Publisher: Putnam