The Chanel Sisters: A Novel

Written by Judithe Little
Review by Nicole Evelina

Most people have heard of the legendary Coco Chanel, but few know about her sisters, Antoinette and Julia-Berthe. This is the story of their rise from convent-raised orphans to successful adults, showing how their strict upbringing influenced each one’s decision’s later in life. While focused on Antoinette, the novel tracks the fall of innocent Julia-Berthe and the fluctuating fortunes of Coco, as well as their aunt Adrienne, who is the same age, as each looks for a suitable husband and a way to live a life that is “Something Better” than they have ever known.

As a novel about women, The Chanel Sisters does a magnificent job of illustrating how important a woman’s reputation was in turn-of-the-20th-century France. However, the pacing is slow, and Antoinette doesn’t feel nearly as fleshed out in comparison to the other female characters and even a few of the men. She is supposed to be the one we are rooting for, but I found myself more intrigued with everyone else. Also, the short chapters, while likely meant to speed pacing, made the book feel a little disjointed. The novel is a good read, but certainly not iconic like the women it depicts.