Review: THE LAST COLLECTION by Jeanne Mackin
Published by Berkley Books on June 25, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Today I am taking part in Berkley’s blog tour to promote Jeanne Mackin’s latest novel, The Last Collection. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on this wonderful book. Thanks so much to Lauren Horvath from Berkley for the invitation!
THE LAST COLLECTION Review
Jeanne Mackin’s The Last Collection is a fascinating historical fiction novel that explores the fierce rivalry between iconic fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel. Set in Paris in the years leading up to World War II, The Last Collection drew me in right away with its lush descriptions of Paris and of the glamorous haute couture designs that Paris’ most well known ladies were wearing. I’m not even that big into fashion but the author so vividly describes the fashion scene in 1930s Paris that I felt like I had truly been transported there.
While the Paris setting is a huge draw, what really makes this such a captivating read is the rivalry between Schiaparelli and Chanel. Mackin does a wonderful job of portraying just how fierce this legendary rivalry really was, especially their attitude that Paris wasn’t big enough for both of them. Rather than be happy for each other’s success, Schiaparelli and Chanel truly hated one another and they each went out of their way to try to tear the other down. Just reading about the little things they would do to get under each other’s skin made this such an engrossing and entertaining read. Whether it was sending spies over to each other’s studios or throwing around downright catty insults about each other’s designs, both Schiaparelli and Chanel took great delight in keeping each other riled up.
In The Last Collection, this rivalry extends to Lily Sutter, a young American woman staying in Paris, who both designers end up befriending. The story is actually told from Lily’s perspective and it’s so fascinating to watch this rivalry play out through her eyes as she basically becomes a pawn in their game. Each designer wants to dress her in their garments but then send her over to the rival studio just to rub it in that she’s not wearing their clothing, etc.
Schiaparelli and Chanel were both strong, talented and successful business women, but that’s pretty much where the resemblance between them ended. They were polar opposites in many ways. When it came to fashion, Schiaparelli favors bright colors and whimsical designs, while Chanel favored classic and elegant designs. And when it came to politics, Schiaparelli was known to sympathize with Communists, while Chanel was known to associate with Nazis.
The politics were also a huge area of interest for me while I was reading The Last Collection. Mackin does a beautiful job weaving the politics of the day, including the rise of Hitler and the start of WWII, into her story and showing how these things impacted Paris, the fashion industry, as well as Schiaparelli and Chanel personally. I loved the added depth the politics lent to the story.
The Last Collection is an engaging read that I’d highly recommend to those who love couture and to readers who enjoy WWII historical fiction.
An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this captivating novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.
Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli 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.
When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress–a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie’s beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli’s designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.
Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel’s personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris.
Not my usual type of read, but I love historical fiction like this, especially such a unique subject matter😊
Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy recently posted…What’s On My Plate – July 2019
This was definitely one of the more unique historical fiction novels I’ve ever read. I was a little worried at first that I’d get bored with the fashion but the two designers and their different styles, along with their intense desire to out-do each other, really held my attention.
Suzanne recently posted…Can’t Wait Wednesday – THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS by Charlotte Nicole Davis
I read a lot of WWII historical fiction, but this sounds like a truly unique angle!
Right? I had never come across one quite like this before. I was a little nervous about whether all of the fashion talk would hold my attention but it totally did.
I am curious about the designers, the period and political climate intrigue me. Awesome find. I am adding this one to my list. So glad you enjoyed it.
Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer recently posted…Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
Aside from the rivalry between the two designers, seeing what people were doing and how Hitler was allowed to rise to power really fascinated me.
Wonderful review, Suzanne! I really enjoyed this, too, and also found so many aspects of it fascinating. It was such a good story.
Thank you! It really was fascinating and I couldn’t get over just how intense the rivalry between the two designers really was.
Oh my, this sounds utterly, utterly fascinating — what a trio of (different) women, in this situation. Fabulous review, Suzanne. I would never have known abt this without your review.
verushka recently posted…Elementary She Read: small-town Sherlock Holmes goodness!
It really was fascinating and although not my typical historical fiction read with all of the fashion bits thrown it, I still really enjoyed it.
I’m not big into fashion either, but the fashion of some historical eras is pretty cool. I can see how a rivalry that intense would steal the show in this book though!
Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted…Book Review: Dark Lord of the Night (Dark Destinies Book 2) by S.K. Ryder
Yeah, it definitely stole the show. I couldn’t get over some of the things they would do and say to each other. It was fierce!