Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Review of The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin

Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 25th 2019 by Berkley Books

An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this captivating novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.

Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel's are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli's bold, experimental, and surreal.

When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress--a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie's beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli's designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.

Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel's personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris. 

My Thoughts…

Paris during WWII, my book dream come true.   I love WWII and am always looking for unique stories told from new points of views.    This story is told by women who are professionals just before and during WWII in Paris.    Both women are successful fashion designers who are in competition with each other as to who dresses the most influential woman.    I love how they both approach the start of WWII different.  One is a sympathizer who takes up with a Nazi and the other does not support the Nazi’s and doesn’t hesitate to keep her thoughts a secret.  
The Last Collection is a fashion designer story.    It is the story of designs being stolen, the rich being coveted, and secrets being kept just to get ahead of the other.    I am not very into fashion but I found it incredibly interesting how Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli made their livings dressing important people, being seen at the right place with the right people, and working their own shops and yet they were opposite each other in their designs.   They had a mutual respect for each other but it didn’t mean that they liked each other.   

Lilly Sutter was a unique addition to the story.   She is a widow from America who comes to Paris to visit her brother and ends up finding a life that helps her move past her sadness at losing her husband.    She works for Schiaparelli but becomes friends with Chanel also.   As she works with Schiaparelli, she learns that she has a self worth beyond what she thought she had and she learns new skills that help her become successful.

The Last Collection is a wonderful glimpse into the fashion world in Paris during a time when war is looming.   

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