The Last Collection: Book summary and reviews of The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin

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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  • Publishes in USA 
    Jun 25, 2019
    352 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this vivid novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.

Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli ("Schiap") are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel's are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli's bold, experimental, and surreal. 

Lily Cooper, a recently widowed American teacher, travels to Paris to visit her brother, Charlie, and try to move on from the loss of her husband. On her first day there, Charlie insists on buying her a couture dress for her birthday--a Chanel. Lily reluctantly agrees but wants a Schiaparelli, not a Chanel. Charlie's girlfriend, Ania, one of the most beautiful and prominent women in Paris, begins wearing Schiap's designs as well, and soon much of Paris is following in her footsteps.

Schiap takes an interest in Lily and offers the budding artist a job at her shop. Suddenly, Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiap and her personal war with Chanel. And as their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights, another war is looming on their doorstep and getting closer every day...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A smart, witty, heartfelt, and riveting look at the infamous rivalry between Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli set against a gripping period in history. Mackin's powerful novel brings these characters to life and transports the reader, juxtaposing both the gaiety and tension of Paris on the brink of war. As elegant and captivating as the designs depicted in the novel, The Last Collection is the perfect read for both historical fiction lovers and fashion aficionados. Simply stunning." - Chanel Cleeton, USA Today bestselling author of Next Year in Havana

"A wonderful story of two intensely creative women, their vibrant joie de vivre, and backbiting competition played out against the increasingly ominous threat of the Nazi invasion of Paris." - Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of Lighthouse Beach

"A vibrant portrait of two designers cut from very different cloth, The Last Collection pits bold Coco Chanel and colorful Elsa Schiaparelli against each other in a fiery feud even as the ominous clouds of World War II darken the horizon. A captivating read!" - Stephanie Marie Thornton, author of American Princess

"As Hitler and the Nazis gather strength and the world braces for war, Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel, whose politics differ as much as their couture, wage a war of their own….Jeanne Mackin takes the reader on an enthralling journey, complete with such vivid descriptions of the clothing, you can practically see them on the page. Beautifully rendered and meticulously researched, The Last Collection is a must read." - Renee Rosen, author of Park Avenue Summer

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Reader Reviews

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Wanda T. (The Villages, FL)

The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin
With war looming over Paris, a young widow visiting her brother finds herself in the middle of the infamous rivalry between Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli. The author does a wonderful job of weaving this rivalry with 2 love stories, and the role these two fashion icons played in WWII. I have read the story of Coco Chanel but knew little of Elsa Schiaparelli. This book led me to read more about Elsa and her clothing designs. If you are a fan of historical fiction and fashion, this is a must read book!

Mary Lou F. (Naples, FL)

Fashion At All Cost
This book tells the rivalry between two top designers - Schiaparelli and Chanel during World War II and how each survived in her own way. Blended into the story is the horror of war. Very good book.

Diane T. (Slingerlands, NY)

Pearls and Sequins
Jeanne Macklin's "The Last Collection" realistically gives the reader a glimpse at not only one of the most cut-throat businesses, that of the fashion industry, but also a decisive moment in history, Hitler's invasion of France and specifically the fashion capital of the world, Paris. With the current resurgence of books dealing with WW II "The Last Collection" gives the reader a chance to experience the emotional upheaval of the impending capture of Paris by the Nazis and the frantic lives the Parisians ascribed to during those dark days.
Having two of the giants of fashion at that time, Elsa Schiaparellu and Coco Chanel as part of the historical "part" of this book, we see how the upbringing of each influences their personal beliefs of the impending war. Their professional jealousy of each other, their justaposion of their use of color and style, Elsa - bold and playful and Coco - severe and classic, points to the impeccable research Macklin did on both. It gave me the feeling on more than one occasion that even the fiction part of the book could also have been true. This is a book I will enthusiastically recommend. Bravo Jeanne!!!

Barbara G. (Dallas, GA)

Colors of life
"If blue is the color of paradox, and red the color of life and death and the passion between the beginnings and endings, then yellow is the color of what is most precious…and is the color of fear"
This jewel of a story uses color to describe feelings and events during the time of fascination and fear in Paris prior to Hitler. But even more powerful is the story of two fashion icons of the time, Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel. Love, hate, fear, loyalty make this artfully written book a real page turner.

Barbara K. (Brooklyn, NY)

Beautifully Written!
It is rare for me to begin a book and find that the rich language keeps me intrigued from beginning to end but Jeanne Mackin has accomplished this in The Last Collection. Her beautiful use of language transported me Paris, introduced me to the world of Paris,and above all highlighted two women, Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli. Also, I could feel how life was affected with the threat of war on the horizon. This book is a must read.

Gail L. (Dallas, TX)

Paris Goes to war
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this beautifully written book of historical fiction. Paris, immediately before the German invasion becomes one of the characters. Color and art and fashion are principle themes. The story is interesting and entertaining. The book deals with war and loss without describing battles and battlefields. It presents a new perspective on a much discussed time in history.

...28 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Jeanne Mackin

Jeanne Mackin is the author of several historical novels, including The Beautiful American. She taught creative writing at Goddard College and has given numerous workshops. She lives with her husband in upstate New York.

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