Title: The Queen of Paris: A Novel of Coco Chanel
Author: Pamela Binnings Ewen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel is revered for her sophisticated style–the iconic little black dress–and famed for her intoxicating perfume Chanel No. 5. Yet behind the public persona is a complicated woman of intrigue, shadowed by mysterious rumors. The Queen of Paris, the new novel from award-winning author Pamela Binnings Ewen, vividly imagines the hidden life of Chanel during the four years of Nazi occupation in Paris in the midst of WWII–as discovered in recently unearthed wartime files.
Coco Chanel could be cheerful, lighthearted, and generous; she also could be ruthless, manipulative, even cruel. Against the winds of war, with the Wehrmacht marching down the Champs-Élysées, Chanel finds herself residing alongside the Reich’s High Command in the Hotel Ritz. Surrounded by the enemy, Chanel wages a private war of her own to wrestle full control of her perfume company from the hands of her Jewish business partner, Pierre Wertheimer. With anti-Semitism on the rise, he has escaped to the United States with the confidential formula for Chanel No. 5. Distrustful of his intentions to set up production on the outskirts of New York City, Chanel fights to seize ownership. The House of Chanel shall not fall.
While Chanel struggles to keep her livelihood intact, Paris sinks under the iron fist of German rule. Chanel–a woman made of sparkling granite–will do anything to survive. She will even agree to collaborate with the Nazis in order to protect her darkest secrets. When she is covertly recruited by Germany to spy for the Reich, she becomes Agent F-7124, code name: Westminster. But why? And to what lengths will she go to keep her stormy past from haunting her future?
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was one of the founders of Chanel No. 5 perfume. One day, she received a notice that one of her former business partners, who owned 90% of the company, had stolen her perfume formula to create in the United States. She must figure out a way to prevent him from stealing her perfume. At the same time, World War II has started, with Germany taking over Paris. Coco gets involved when a close relative is taken as a prisoner of war. She has to take many dangerous risks to save her company and her family.
There were some flashbacks throughout the first half of the book to when Coco was a young adult. These were the only parts that were told in first person point of view, from Coco’s perspective. She seemed like a different person from the savvy business woman she was in the 1940s. These flashbacks did serve a purpose to show what Coco’s early life, and a life changing romance, were like. However, I didn’t like that she seemed like a completely different character from the woman she became in the 1940s.
I was surprised at some of the twists in the story. I didn’t think it was true because some things were quite scandalous and outrageous. At the end of the novel, there was an author’s note that talks about the parts of the story that were based on historical documents. Coco Chanel was a spy during WWII, though her exact missions aren’t clear. I had no idea that this famous designer had lived such a wild life.
This was a fascinating novel about Coco Chanel’s life
Thank you Blackstone Publishing for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly
The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham
Have you read The Queen of Paris? What did you think of it?