This is a really unusual book. As its preface explains, there have been many, many treatises written about Coco Chanel, her upbringing, her inspirations, her work. The author, Isabelle Fiemeyer, believes many writers have made unfounded suggestions about the nature of Chanel’s character and her behaviour during WWII, with some all-too-eager to brand her a ‘Nazi spy’.
Fiemeyer hopes to refute those accusations by use of new interviews, archival material and secret documents that have only now been declassified. Split between ‘Raptures’ and ‘Rants’ – sections devoted to her admirers and critics, respectively – it’s a fascinating if somewhat clinical read, with passages chronicling Chanel’s life, interspersed with photos, interview snippets, quotes and personal correspondence.
Much of the truth about this enigmatic fashion designer may now never be known, but this beautifully produced book hopes to set at least part of the record straight.
Chanel: The Enigma by Isabelle Fiemeyer. Published by Flammarion. List price: £29.95.
From France Today magazine