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The Last Collection

A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel

by Jeanne Mackin

The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin X
The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2019, 352 pages

    Aug 2020, 368 pages


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There are currently 42 member reviews
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  • Chris (CA)
    Fascinating history
    Fashion, politics and love are prominent in this story as are the three primary colors - blue, red, yellow - and the three strong women in the narrator's life while she lived in Paris. I learned about the rivalry between Chanel and Schiaparelli, their backgrounds and personalities, the fashion industry in Paris prior to WWII, the lives of the wealthy there, the political intrigue, and a little of what it was like to be in Paris during the build-up to the war. The tension, fear, and denial of a possible war was well described. How could anything bad happen to Paris? "It was mad, this ignoring of reality just as reality was about to turn horrific." The author did a good job of presenting all of this, and I felt like I was there. I thought the emphasis on the primary colors by the painter-narrator was an interesting thread throughout the book. Her struggles to reclaim her life and painting after tragically losing her husband were effectively woven into the color theme, but I think colors were actually overused in her descriptions of everything in her life. I enjoyed this book and how it was written. Pictures of the historical characters, places, and fashions would be a nice addition. This is a good read for anyone interested in the fashion industry and that time period, and I certainly think book clubs would have a lot to talk about.
  • Dorothy H. (Folsom, CA)
    Coca Chanel vs Elsa Schiaparelli The Early Years
    A fast paced historical novel in pre WWII Paris telling the tale of 2 iconic woman's high fashion designers and their great dislike of each other. Story is told rom the point of view of a young American widow that interact with both designers. Great for book club.
  • Joan W. (Orion, MI)
    Great Read
    This is a story of fashion in Paris - about Schiaparelli and Chanel. Also a story of Lily, Ania and Charlie just before WWII started up. Lily became friends with Schiap (as her friends called her and Chanel through Ania.
    The story moves on at a good pace, fashion, fierce rivalry, and finding love in the least place you would think, about fashion designs, artists, and of course Paris.
    The story kept me interested all the way through, and made me stay up very late to see how it all turned up. You will be surprised about that. It made me sad, angry, and happy. Definitely a must read.
  • Nancy L. (Staunton, VA)
    In Living Color
    The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackie follows the lives of two internationally celebrated designers, Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, as they navigate the fashion world of Paris immediately before its invasion by the Germans in World War II. The rivalry between the two designers is intense and the narrative is rich with intrigue as the war edges ever closer to Paris. Lily Sutter, a young American artist living in Paris, is the narrator of the story as well as the thread that binds these women together. The writing is beautiful and fills the story with glorious color, especially when describing the creations of Elsa Schiaparelli. It's a perfect glimpse into the high class world of society and fashion in prewar Paris.
  • Becky H
    Fascinating couture and politics
    I was fascinated by the personalities of Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli and the intricacies of Haute Couture and politics in Paris just before and during WWII. But I was also intrigued by the daily life of various classes of people (upper class, middle class, merchants, professionals, wage workers, spies, artists, military, etc.) during that same period. Even the Ritz Hotel and the various cafes became a part of the story.
    I was so curious about the gowns being designed, constructed and worn that I looked them up on Google. Yes, they are all there! I hope the finished book has photographs of Lily’s first Schiaparelli dress and the “tree” costume.
    At first I thought this would be just another mildly interesting romance with clothes. I was delightedly mistaken. THE LAST COLLECTION is well worth your reading time and would be a good choice for book groups.
  • Bobbie D. (Boca Raton, FL)
    Colors Tell it All
    The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin, is a riveting piece of historical fiction about fashion icons Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel before, during, and after the second world war. Most of the story takes place in Paris. Even today, it is uncertain if either of them collaborated with the Germans.
    Lily, the narrator, is a young widowed American would be artist. She describes everything real or imagined by colors. Lily becomes somewhat friendly with both designers who are so jealous of each other, romantically and in business. For example, at a ball, Coco actually pushes Schaiparelli into a candleabra and watches as her costume catches on fire.
    Waiting for the war to come, watching sandbags piling up, seeing the paintings taken off the walls of the museums for safekeeping is a prologue of what seems eminent. You feel like you are there.
    There are side stories of characters you come to care about including Lily, her brother and his lover, and even the German Lily is falling in love with.
    This book is hard to put down.
    The last line of the book sums it up so well. "I left Coco and Schiaps and Anai's daughter, and all the colors of Paris, the blues and reds and yellows that are the primary colors, the colors from where all other colors come
    in grief and joy."
    Perfect read for women, bookclubs and anyone looking for a more personal take on the war.
  • Shirley L. (Norco, LA)
    More Than A Story, A Work Of Art
    The three primary issues in this delightful book are fashion, politics and love. The author does a brilliant job of mixing the three onto a beautiful canvas. The stories about the inner workings of high Parisian fashion pre World War II are fascinating. The two main characters are stand ins for the two conflicting political philosophies. Coco for sympathizing with fascist ideas in her use of classic colors, structure, discipline and perfect lines in her creations. Scape is communist leaning, symbolized by her bold colors, over the top embellishments and rule changing designs. All characters are searching for love to protect themselves from the terror of being alone in these turbulent political times. A fun read that gives the reader a lot to think about beyond the surface story.

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