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Book Reviews: Chanel, The Enigma

This is a really unusual book. As its preface explains, there have been many, many treatises written about Coco Chanel [1], 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 [2], with some all-too-eager to brand her a ‘Nazi spy’.

Chanel, The Enigma. Courtesy of Flammarion

Fiemeyer hopes to refute those accusations by use of new interviews [3], 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 [4]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

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