The Last Collection
Score: 4.5/5 Bookmarks
The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Shiaparelli and Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin is a tale of rivalries, love, color, politics, fire, and war in Paris before, during and after WWII. The author gives a glimpse into the every-day lives and inner workings of two of the biggest fashion houses of the day, and certainly paints Coco Chanel in a light that was unexpected to me.
I would have liked a little more development in the relationships of our leading lady and Elsa Shiaparelli and Coco Chanel, it seemed to me that she just sort of ‘fell in with them’ without much more explanation than that.
Despite that, you’ll notice that I still gave the book four and a half out of five. It was such an enjoyable read, I fell in love with all of the characters (even the ones you weren’t meant to like) and the only things I love more than a good historical fiction are Paris, art, and fashion—so this book was entirely up my alley.
Here are just a few quotes and moments, from the book, that stuck with me:
““When I was at the orphanage, I sometimes daydreamed about setting it ablaze.” Coco said it sweetly, the way another woman would have said, As a child I wanted to be a ballerina.”
“That afternoon, I went to Sennelier’s on Quai Voltaire, across from the Louvre, the store where Cezanne and most other artists after him had obtained their art supplies. I stood transfixed in front of the trays of pastels and tues and brushes, and something moved in me that had been slumbering for two years. Color. So much color. I bought paper and a box of pastel crayons, and an extra handful of indigo, cerulean blue, and carmine crayons.” (I’ve been to Sennelier’s in Paris a few times, and felt the same magic).
“People should be happy, he told me once. We aren’t supposed to be alone. life is meant to be shared. And grief must end sometime. Life must begin again.”
“…the look on Coco’s face when Schiap burst into flames had frightened me as much as the flames on Schiap’s bark costume. Her face had been cold with satisfaction, certainly, and also with horror at what she had done, and a certain resignation. As if it had to be done, there was no other way to win, to conquer her rival once and for all. But every victory has a price, and Coco was already wondering what the price of this would be for her.”
““No one looks their best after they’ve been set on fire,” I pointed out. She laughed once, a sound like something breaking.”
“Ania and I said good night and she gave me the two kisses on the cheek common for Parisians. “One for luck,” she said. “One for remembrance.””
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.