What do you know about Chanel? The iconic image, the perfume, the black dress pretty much sums up what I knew about her. This is not a book about that, this is a book about a nasty dark secret which impacts Adele, Chanel’s personal assistant.
In present day, Chole is working in France to help a friend in a boutique full of vintage items, whilst healing her heart from her divorce. She knows her grandmother Adele was French and that at one time had worked for Chanel and lived in The Ritz but she is reluctant to say much more. Chloe wants to know the truth.
Moving back to the past we are taken to the occupation of Paris by the Nazis in the Second World War. The Hotel Ritz, the living place of Chanel and Adele is full of Nazis, German Officers are everywhere and the resistance to this occupation is death. A nasty death.
Then of course there is those that don’t fit in, fuelled by whatever influences Chanel is quite clear of her views of these types of people. One day Adele witness the consequences of this hatred and watches as a women is taken away, a pleading look in her eyes to Adele. That one action leads Adele to risk her life by finding this woman’s child and getting her to safety.
Who do you trust? Who can you trust? The American Doctor? The French Secretary? The Concierge of the hotel? The Famous Fashion Designer? Adele finds herself mixed up in at all, can she really know what she knows and get out of the situation on the right side?
In present day, Chloe has no idea of the background of Chanel and is surprised by what she learns. When she encounters Etienne she finds that his knowledge of Chanel and how her behaviour during the war influenced his grandmother’s life, it seems that there were two very different outcomes depending on what side of the resistance and support you were on. It did not do to show your true colours. Chole and Etienne find themselves showing their true colours and perhaps everyone can move on now knowing the past.
Whilst Adele’s story is fictional, the rest is very much real and clearly the author has done her research as the passion for what she learnt jumped off the page. Some of the actions and descriptions in the book, make for uncomfortable reading and my heart was in my mouth sometimes as the story moved on. I learnt so much and it is a book which made me stop and think, made me question and made the odd tear run down my cheek as I realised what really happened to the many thousands of people at the hands of the Nazis, the collaborators and all the conspirators. It does not seem all that long ago.
If you are looking for a well written, thoroughly researched historical fiction book then this one to look out for in 2022. You will learn a lot, I promise you.
Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.
The Dressmaker’s Secret is out now.
Do check out Lorna Cooks other novels as well – my reviews can be found below