Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Gospel According to... ?

Well, I am not quite done with book reviews YET. It's nice to look back months later and remember what I thought of a particular book after I read it.

Today's book: The Gospel According to Coco Chanel by Karen Karbo

Cute. Charming. And Ultimately disappointing.


1. It's funny and easy to read. The humorous writing style moves briskly and smoothly, so that I had a hard time putting the book down.

2. Quick and comprehensive summary of Chanel's life in a series of memorable images. For example, Karbo writes that "[Chanel's] childhood was the Belle Époque version of a country-and-western song. The only thing she lacked was a dead dog and a wasting disease." Talk about descriptive imagery.

3. The text is cleverly designed, mixing biography with pithy pointers on how to do things the Chanel way.


1. Karbo inserted FAR too much of her own personal opinions. This book often seemed to be Karbo's own autobiography rather than a biography of Chanel.

2. The book relied on current events and silly modern phrases or trends to explain a lot of things about Chanel and her life. In other words, it will quickly be dated. Unlike Chanel's creations, this book is not timeless.

3. I lost all respect for this book on page 123, when Karbo referred to Chanel and one of her major competitors as "frenemies." What is this, People magazine? Please give your subject a little more respect than that.

The Bottom Line: Skip it- unless you are at the beach. There are dozens of Chanel biographies that are actually, you know, biographies. This, on the other hand, was an engaging but fluffy book that offered maximum readability with minimal substance. Try an older Chanel biography instead, and leave Karbo to her self-aggrandizing ways. Then again, this is just light and silly enough of a book to make pretty good beach reading.

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