‘Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War’ by Hal Vaughan

'Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War' by Hal Vaughan

'Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War' by Hal VaughanIf you are reading this review because you are head-over-heels in love with Chanel’s clothes, Chanel’s bags or Chanel #5 – well, this book is not for you. If you are reading this review because you think Mademoiselle Gabrielle ‘CoCo’ Chanel is the most intelligent and fabulous woman ever – well, then this book is definitely not for you. If you like reading about history and are not afraid to learn about the dark side of an ‘idols’ character, then and only then should you give this book a shot.

‘For a woman betrayal has no sense – one cannot betray one’s passions.’

The general and succinct description of this novel is that author Hal Vaughan asserts – by means of his somewhat dry and dissertation-like writing style – that fashion ‘ingenue’ CoCo Chanel was a Nazi support throughout the Paris occupation of World War II and a fervent anti-Semite. And after reading page after page of what appears to be a well-researched, if not well-edited book, Vaughan does present enough evidence to thoroughly and convincingly back-up his theory.

His novel presents a very different side to the woman that is normally lauded as brilliant, fabulous, perfect, untouchable and credited with the brilliant creation of the little black dress. Vaughan’s novel presents Chanel instead of as just an innovative designer – but also as a woman whom is duplicitous, false, promiscuous, and ultimately part of the female traitor population Parisian citizens eventually dubbed as ‘horizontal’ collaborators. (Think that one over, you’ll get it in a minute.)

‘There is nothing worse than solitude. Solitude can help a man realize himself; but it destroys a woman.’

As I was reading this novel, I kept asking myself, ‘Do you believe this?’ And the truth is – yes. Yes, I do believe most of it. Chanel did in fact have a German Nazi as a boyfriend. She did in fact live in the Nazi occupied Ritz Hotel. And Chanel was great friends with high-ranking politicians – like English Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the 2nd Duke of Westminster Hugh Grosvenor  – whom I have no doubt helped to keep Chanel out of trouble/jail, and all her Nazi connection/collaboration largely out of the press.

Do I think less of Chanel after reading this novel? As a person, yes. As a designer, no. Do I covet her clothes less? No, no I don’t. I still long for those quilted bags and the sexy musky smell of her #5. Would I recommend this book? Yes, but only if you have the stamina to suffer through some of Vaughan’s dry spells and hold out until he finally stops blithering and starts saying something – which, trust me, he eventually does.

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 1 {out of 5} stars  |  ★☆☆☆☆
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 1 {out of 5} stars  |  ★☆☆☆☆
RATING: 2 {out of 5} stars  |  ★★☆☆☆