Friday, October 8, 2010

Recovering With: Coco Chanel The Legend And The Life, By Justine Picardie

Apologies for the lack of blogging since my return from the UK, unfortunately I have been struck down by some nasty, coldy, flu bug, no doubt picked up on the aeroplane. I have taken to my bed for the last few days, nursing myself with plenty of hot drinks and paracetamol.

However being laid up in bed does have it's advantages I have had the opportunity to read Justine Picardie's wonderful new book Coco Chanel The Legend And The Life.

 When the book arrived before I left for the UK, I was already impressed, the book is beautiful, wonderfully laid out with over two hundred images, some never published before and ten wonderful, exclusive illustrations by Karl Lagerfeld.

I have read countless articles and books on Coco Chanel and seen various films and documentaries most of which have been on the French Arte Channel. I wondered how Justine could possibly top everything that is already out there. But she has done it, I feel as if Justine has taken me by the hand, out of my duvet, strewn with tissues environment and transported me into the glittering crystal world of Chanel.


 I feel I have walked on the stone and cobbles that young Gabrielle walked whilst an orphan living with the nuns in Aubazine Abbey, felt the pain and loss of her various love affairs and friendships, partied with her at her fabulous French Riviera bolt hole 'La Pausa', toasted her triumphs and commiserated her disappointments and felt her presence at The Ritz and 31 Rue Cambon.

Coco By Horst

 Coco By Cecil Beaton

I love the way the images and illustrations run through the book rather than the usual few pages in the middle, which one has to keep flicking to in most biographies, every image and illustration has been carefully thought through, which brings each chapter to life.
 Coco in 1930 at 'La Pausa' her French Riviera Bolthole
 Dining with friends, looking fabulous

 This book is not just a book for fashion lovers or admirers of Chanel it is also a wonderful walk through the history of the twentieth century, encompassing The Edwardian era, First World War, Russian Revolution, The Jazz Age, Second World War, Post War France and into the modern era.  With insights into many famous characters, along the way.

Coco With Salvador Dali

After reading Justine's book I have a much greater insight of Chanels character and what made her tick. How the abandonment by her father affected her for the rest of her life, causing her to invent stories to blur the truth and how her time at the orphanage in Aubazine inspired some of her most famous designs.   She was complexed with a dark side, inventive, innovative, scathing,  generous, a perfectionist, scheming, but above all she was one of the most remarkable women of the twentieth century.

 Coco in her apartment, Rue Cambon, Douglas Kirkland

 Coco Working, Douglas Kirkland

Indomitable until the end, Douglas Kirkland

In short I adored Justine's book, it is a beautiful book and wonderfully researched. With the first murmurings of Christmas, I know a lot of my friends will be receiving this book in their Christmas stocking.

Coco Chanel, The Legend And The Life Available Here


  1. By co incidence I've just been reading about her in one of the sections of Theodor Zeldin's 'Histoire des passions francaises'

  2. The book sounds delightful. I am sorry you caught a bug and do take it easy until it passes.

    I wonder what Coco would think of Audrey Tatou's portrayal of her?


  3. Interesting. I never would have given this book another look, but after reading your post, I am intrigued to get a copy for myself.
    Thank you.

  4. mmm tengo ganas de leer el libro estoy muy curiosa!
    saludos el blog me encanta!

  5. God, she was so magnificent when she was young. Those photos are amazing.

  6. I will be buying this book it looks stunning as well as a good read. Dash my boys have all been ill with this flu bug I am fighting it off valiantly :)
    I hope you are feeling better.

  7. Great recommendation Dash. I never knew how pretty she was when young. |I think i@ll out this on my christmas list!

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. A wonderful post! I'm a big fan of Chanel
    (& of all things French!;)) and this will def feature on my Christmas list! Great to find your blog, am following & looking forward to reading more!xx

  10. Sounds wonderful! It's always amazing to see old photos of Coco. Her look always seems current.

  11. Bloody hell woman, the combination of crispy duck, Indian curry, fish and chips followed by high tea would kill most people. You ARE a worry.
    While I enjoyed your Chanel post, I am merely grateful that you survived the decadent cuisine of Blighty and have lived to post again.
    I would kill for a proper fish and chips at this moment.
    X David

  12. Shame you got some UK lurgy but what a book to bunk down with until you felt better. I'm lucky now - there is a little library about a ten minute walk away and I will be there this week with my special request for this book. thanks for tip.

  13. I must read my copy. It's been so brilliantly researched by Justine. I just wish I had more time. I hope you feel better soon xx

  14. Thanks for this review, my dear. I read an extract in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago. I can't wait to read this book.

  15. I hope you're feeling better now, Dash. What a great review (and wonderful images). I'm wasn't too sure about this book, but now I want to read it.

  16. sorry you got hit by a British bug.......have just returned from visiting my friend in France myself where I think I rather up set her by wearing red lipstick, she kept referring to me as Coco and is planning to burn her fleece..........

  17. Hi Dash

    I bought this book a few weeks ago and am eager to get stuck into it. At first glance I was equally impressed with the number of photos and the personal insights into her life. I read 'Daphne' by Justine and loved her writing style. I have been eagerly waiting another book ever since and was happy to see that she picked such a remarkable woman to write about. Your review has moved the book to the top of my pile, it is next in line. Thank you!!!

    Jeanne xxx

  18. The images alone speak a thousand words.I will get it too.
    On a lighter note I just got Inès de la Fressange's book just out called La Parisienne.Forever linked to Karl Lagerfeld's personification of Coco Chanel,Ines writes about her definition of LA Parisienne that would demystify a lot of clichés.Basically anyone can be a Parisien or Parisienne.After all the epitome of the Parisienne Coco Chanel came from Saumur in the heart of the Maine et Loire.
    Interesting X'mas present idea.I'm not sure if the English edition is out yet though.

  19. Your photos are a total delight, and rarely seen. So I hope my readers go straight to your blog to have a look. Many thanks for the link


  20. I really enjoyed your piece on Nancy Cunard. How sad that such a talented, committed woman- poet, publisher, activist,- should come to such a sad & ignominious end.

    I am thus disappointed to read all the praise you heap on Justine Picardie's biography of Chanel.
    Nancy Cunard would certainly have prefered Hal Vaughan's "Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War," a biography solidly based on historical fact, rather than the ploy of exploiting the glamourous Coco myth. Chanel was a virulent anti-Semite & 'copine,' as well as mistress, to middle & high-ranking Nazis during the Nazi occupation of France. Fascism is never chic to right-minded people, and Chanel's ideological convictions obliterate her style and 'good taste.' I can think of nothing more tasteless than being a Jew-hater who took advantage of the Nazi confiscation of Jewish possessions, while Jews were being rounded up and sent to the camps. Far from glamorous, I'm afraid.


Thank you for visiting French Sampler, I hope you come back soon. I love to read your comments and will reply as soon as I can.