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By Sara on 09-25-16
An Unlikable Portrait
I almost didn't write a review here because my feelings about this biography are so negative that I thought I would skip the write up. I wondered frequently while listening why the author chose Chanel as the subject for her book. To me, it was completely clear from the start that Garelick disliked Chanel. As the book progressed the story took on a feeling of nastiness and a tone of "truth telling"-- with the goal being exposing Chanel for who she really was. This judgmental perspective seemed overly one sided and as such disturbed me.
If you have seen the movie Coco Before Chanel know that you will see a different woman in that movie than what the first four chapters of this bio presents. In fact, the writing here was so flat and non descriptive that the only way I could begin to picture Chanel's early life was through memories I had of distant scenes from the movie. Don't go into this book expecting a life painted beautifully in words by the author. Instead, Chanel is presented as a truly terrible person, a habitual liar, a prostitute and a thief. Be aware that these attributes only scratch the surface of the life story told in this biography.
Even worse than this--the writing takes the form of "telling" or talking at the reader rather than the more complex form of "showing" the story with character driven action and dialogue. Couple this with Gilbert's poor French and over the top narration and you have, for me, a deadly combination.
In the end I feel I wasted too much time listening to a tattletale gossip. Further, I am left wondering if Chanel really was such a villain? Are there no shades of grey in this harsh black and white story? Maybe not.
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