Once Coco and Stravinsky are under the same roof, they can barely keep their lust contained. Mr. Greenhalgh’s expert story telling and imagination make the reader feel as if he is a fly on the wall witnessing firsthand their physical chemistry.
For example, while their friendship is building into a passionate fury, Chanel helps Stravinsky sew a button back on his shirt. She pricks her finger with the needle, allowing Mr. Greenhalgh’s artful use of metaphor to shine.
“An attraction flashed between them. Unspoken and remote, perhaps, but as real and clear as the button she sews back on to his shirt. An undertow of longing pulls at him. The sting of the needle in her finger has quickened the heat in his blood.”
Soon the couple acquiesces to their yearning, and tryst all over Bel Respiro, much to the chagrin of Chanel’s household staff, and Stravinsky’s wife, who, although grateful for Chanel’s generosity, sees her as a noveau riche upstart.
Catherine’s confirmation of their affair leads to confrontations with Stravinsky and her ultimate decision to leave Bel Respiro with the children.
For her part, knowing that Stravinsky will never leave his wife for her, Chanel soon takes another Russian lover, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovitch, whom Stravinsky loathes.
The two men wrangle, leaving Stravinksy with cracked eyeglasses.
The novel ends with the two lovers parting woefully, but peacefully, Stravinsky leaving behind his piano, which he would never return to reclaim.
In the book, Chanel’s last thoughts on her deathbed are of her beloved Igor, whose gift of a religious icon she keeps nearby.
Chanel died in January 1971. Stravinsky would follow her that spring.
They both were named by Time Magazine in the top 100 most influential figures of the 20th century.
Aside from the richly woven prose and heightened sense of romance and intrigue, readers will find this novel entertaining, especially if they are admirers of Chanel and Stravinsky and their searing contributions to the fields of fashion and music.
The book implies that Chanel’s affair with Stravinsky is the inspiration behind her iconic fragrance, Chanel Number Five, perhaps the most famous perfume ever created.
“It appeals to the senses in the same way music does; and he’s prepared to concede it needs artistry, genius even, to create it,” the book has Stravinsky thinking after Chanel tests samples with him.
“You know something? I never told you. You smell marvelous,” he reveals during their final embrace.View Entire Story
Stephanie Green is an arts and culture reporter for The Washington Times and, with Elizabeth Glover, the co-author of Green and Glover, the paper’s personalities column. Before joining The Times, Stephanie was a reporter for the Alexandria Times and a contributing writer and editor of Capitol File magazine. Her work has also appeared in Washingtonian. Stephanie worked on C-SPAN’s 2006 ...
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