I picked The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman by Karen Karbo (not a new book. It came out in 2009) as a quick and fun summer reading for the week of Coco Chanel's birthday (today). The second half of August is not necessarily the time one seeks important life lessons. As you can imagine, a book titled The Gospel According to Coco Chanel is definitely not supposed to provide too much meaningful insight; thus, expectations are set.
I won't even try to delve into the question if Chanel is the right person to give us life lessons. The author, Karen Karbo, will be the first to tell you that Mademoiselle was deeply (and sometimes inexcusably) flawed. This, of course, doesn't take away from her extraordinary life, character, and career. There is a lot to learn from Chanel's life and the choices she made, but this fluffy little book is not where you'll find big answers. Instead you will get an abridged biography, old but juicy celeb gossip, a concise and easy to digest explanation of Chanel's fashion philosophy (which does apply and relate to life in general), business practices (she knew what she was doing. Most of the time), and a reflection on the upside of being a cantankerous and spiteful human being. You'll also find the less interesting story of the author's quest for a vintage Chanel jacket.
There are some repetitions of facts in the book (I get it, Mademoiselle loved horses, English men, and more than anything English men with horses), and while it begins in a mostly chronological order, Karbo loses the thread at some point which makes her point somewhat less convincing and a little forced. The anecdotes are interesting and if this is one's first introduction to Chanel's life and times this book will go down easily. Just don't expect an in-depth analysis and discussion of Chanel's complicated and ambiguous character.
The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman by Karen Karbo ($9.99 for the Kindle edition on Amazon).
Photo of Coco Chanel by Cecil Beaton via zero1magazine.com.