The Last Collection
by Jeanne Mackin
GENRE: Historical Romance
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.
"Sophisticated couture wars and looming world wars take center stage in Mackin’s latest, with a plot that buzzes with love triangles and political intrigue. A gorgeous meditation on art, fashion, and heartbreak. Stunning."
--Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece
“Exquisitely melding world politics and high fashion, THE LAST COLLECTION is 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. Seamless research makes every character leap to life and kept me totally engaged from beginning to end.
--Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of Lighthouse Beach
“A vibrant portrait of two designers cut from very different cloth, Jeanne Mackin’s 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. Lily Sutter, the woman who finds herself in the middle of their feud, has a battle of her own as she struggles to make a new start amidst extreme grief and loss. From New York to Paris, 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."
--Renée Rosen, author of Park Avenue Summer
Of the three primary colors, blue is most suggestive of paradox: it is the color of longing and sadness, and yet it is also the color of joy and fulfillment. On a ship, at night, blue water merges into blue sky, so blue is the color of places with no borders, no edges.
If you throw salt into a fire, the flames will burn blue. Salt rubbed into a wound renews the pain, intensifies it. Seeing others kiss and embrace was salt in my wound, a blue flame burning the length of me.
Blue best represents the contradictions of the heart, the need to be loved and cherished at the same time that we wish for freedom.
Blue, the color of the Worth gown that the little girl Elsa Schiaparelli found in her Roman piazza attic, the color of the covers of the penny romances Coco Chanel found in the orphanage attic.
Blue is what made Elsa Schiaparelli’s daring color, shocking pink, so special: it is pink infused with blue, turning a demure blush into an electric surge. Schiaparelli turned girlish pink into the color of seduction by adding that touch of blue.
And always, there is the blue of the Paris sky on a June day.
Listen. I’m going to tell you a story about fashion, and politics. And, of course, about love. The three primaries, like the primary colors.
What are four things you can’t live without?
Well, aside from air and water and food, of course, a glass of wine to end the work day. A nice dry red, and on special occasions champagne. Fresh flowers. My home feels empty without a least one vase filled with them. I place the vase in a central place where I pass by dozens of times a day and fill my eyes with them. A new book to read, waiting on my bedside table. A plane or bus ticket for a trip coming up soon. Those are all things, of course, material objects. The deeper needs – my close friends and a sense of gratitude. They keep me going. That, and a work in progress on my desk. When I finished The Last Collection, I was absolutely bereft…and then I started writing a new book.
What is your favorite television show?
I love British murder mysteries, the Agatha Christies and Midsomer Murders. My husband and I called them gravel stories, because they so often involve country houses with graveled drives and gardens. The atmosphere, the eccentric characters, the interiors…so much fun! Usually they are also astonishingly well-constructed, well-acted, and faithful to the spirit of the novel.
If you could be any character, from any literary work, who would you choose to be? Why?
Rosemary Hoyt, the young American actress in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. She is already well known in her profession, has a wise, caring mother, and gets to travel to wonderful places. She’s healthy and unencumbered and stumbles across this extraordinary group of people in the south of France. For a while her life intertwines with theirs – the parties, scandals, flirtations - and then she moves on. It would be the perfect life for a writer, as well as an actor. Rosemary has always intrigued me. So many people are wounded, damaged, in this heart-breaker of a novel, but Rosemary thrives. For her, these people and that place is a stage she occupies for a while before the next part. And you can see in her still unformed character that she has the potential to develop into something truly splendid. Rosemary, unlike the other characters, has the potential for happiness.
What have you got coming soon for us to look out for?
The paperback edition of my most recent book – The Last Collection – A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanelis out in mid-August. To describe it, I’ll use the quote that Hazel Gaynor so kindly gave the book: “A fascinating insight into a war of passion and ambition set amid the looming threat of the Nazi invasion of Paris…Mackin cleverly captures the infamous rivalry between Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.” It’s also being published in France, Italy, Poland, Romania and Norway.
What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
Daphne du Maurier would have to top the list. I began reading her quite early in life and have been rereading her ever since. Her stories are so absolutely compelling and even when I finish reading the book the characters stay in my head like memories of actual people. Her writing style was correct but not fussy or overly polished. She trusted the power of the story, the characters, the words and that, I think is the most important quality for good writing. If it’s a good story, don’t get in its way, just let it go. If it’s not a good story, stop writing it.
Thanks for letting me visit your page!
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jeanne Mackin ‘s latest novel, The Last Collection, A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel takes the reader to Paris, just before world war II, and the intense, dangerous rivalry between the two queens of fashion. Her previous novels include A Lady of Good Family, the award winning The Beautiful American, The Sweet By and By, Dreams of Empire, The Queen’s War, and The Frenchwoman.
Her historical fictions explore the lives of strong women who change their worlds…because we know the world always needs a lot of change! She has worked all the traditional ‘writers’ jobs’ from waitressing to hotel maid, anything that would leave her a few hours each morning for writing. Most recently, she taught creative writing at the graduate level. She has traveled widely, in Europe and the Middle East and can think of no happier moment than sitting in a Paris café, drinking coffee or a Pernod, and simply watching, while scribbling in a notebook.
Penguin Random House - https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/531859/the-last-collection-by-jeanne-mackin/
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