Soul Sisters

Wow, you guys, I didn’t 100% know what I was getting into with Judithe Little‘s historical fiction novel The Chanel Sisters, but I am so glad that I picked it up and finally read it!

(Real quick–here’s the link to my vlog for this fantastic novel)

Taking place between 1897 and 1921, Little takes readers on a journey through the life of the famous Coco Chanel and her little sister Antoinette. Here’s a quick excerpt from the historical note (one of my favorite things authors do):

A few years ago I picked up a biography of Coco Chanel expecting to read that she came from a privileged, glamorous background…This part of Coco’s biography [the fact that she and her sisters were charity cases] made her eventual success all the more stunning. But as I thought about how to approach a novel, Coco, famous for lying about her upbringing, didn’t feel like an authentic narrator…Instead, Antoinette emerged as an opportunity both to tell Coco’s story and to reveal a more intimate, honest side to Coco only her sister would have been privy to.

The historical note goes on to describe Little’s research process, what was actually true in the book, and a timeline. Can you hear me fangirling about all this research? I LOVE when historical fiction writers give their readers a glimpse into the process, and as a reader who quickly grew to adore Antoinette, I was eager to know what was “fact,” and what was inspired fiction.

I also loved the pacing and structure of the book, Little breaks the story up into six sections, from the Chanels’ childhood to the end of Antoinette’s life. The chapters are short but very engaging, full of colorful description and dialogue that seems so realistic that you can practically hear the characters talk to each other. Going back to Little’s comment about Antoinette seeming like the ideal, authentic narrator, I loved when we got to take a peek inside her head.

For example, when she’s in Paris helping her sister, there’s a scene where Coco gives a hat away and Antoinette smiles, but “all she felt was rage.” How great is that? I love the juxtaposition and how she confronts Coco about it after the fact, it really shows her grow as a character from the scared little orphan to the strong woman who seeks independence.

While I’m thinking about it, and this also relates to Antoinette being the narrator and therefore being “revealing a more intimate, honest side” to Coco–Antoinette nearly always refers to her sister as “Gabrielle,” her given name. I thought that this was a really interesting, profound way to show her humanity.

It’s just so well written, I loved it and flew through the story so quickly! I loved the character growth, I loved the juxtaposition of romance and love among Antoinette, Coco, and their aunt Adrienne–Coco doesn’t seem to care about marriage at all whereas Antoinette and Adrienne long for love and, to some degree, marriage. I loved how giving Lucho, Antoinette’s love interest, was–and it was really cool (again in the historical note) to learn that Antoinette fled to Argentina, but history doesn’t know why. So, it was heartwarming to actually give her a reason to go there. You guys, unless you just don’t enjoy historical fiction/pseudo-biographies, I really think you’ll find something you’ll love in this book.

That’s all I’ve got for now! I don’t have any requests, so I’m working through the books on my shelf at the moment. (If you’re an author looking to be reviewed, you can use my contact page here!) So, next week, I’ll be reviewing Hannah’s War by Jan Eliasberg next week.

Happy Reading!


2 thoughts on “Soul Sisters

  1. Thank you so much for this review, Hannah. So glad you liked The Chanel Sisters! My daughter just started at CU Boulder this fall!


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