The Evening group
Another biography for the evening group and the big question after reading it was do we actually know any more about the life of Coco Chanel than we did before starting it? If you knew nothing or very little about her then the answer will be yes, but otherwise I suspect it will be no. To a large extent, this is not the fault of the author. Chanel had a humble background and there is no doubt that in many ways she was ashamed of that and as a result she changed her life story many times. She also changed it in accounts she gave to different people which has added to the confusion over the years. So Justine Picardie has on the whole just used details that are accepted as being true which is honest of her, but perhaps does not make the story of her life as interesting as it could have been.
What does come across is how driven she was, driven to succeed in the area in which she became famous. She was also ruthless and in some ways we felt this was skipped over by Picardie. More than ruthless, she came across as anti-Semitic and homophobic to some extent and the least said about what she got up to during the war the better. She did come across as lonely (especially at the end of her life) and her relationships never seemed to work out very well, but that was possibly related to the people she mixed with. She certainly had many well-known friends (including Churchill for example) and she did seem happiest when mixing in groups like that.
My usual question – was it a good read? It was an easy read certainly and as I knew very little about her beforehand I found it interesting enough.