Updated: Sep 7, 2020
@GoddessFish, @Archaeolibrary, @JeanneMackin1,
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
At the ball that night there were people whose faces I recognized, a blur of memory from my first evening in Paris at the Ritz, and many more people whom I didn’t recognize at all, men with military posture, women covered with jewels, men in dresses, women in tuxedos, ingénues in pastel gowns. And Charlie and Ania, beautiful Charlie and Ania, so immersed in each other’s gaze they could have been alone rather than dancing through crowded rooms.
…Coco arrived around eleven, in a diaphanous green gown that looked like fern fronds moving in a breeze when she moved. It was Coco, blending into nature, but still Coco.
Schiap arrived soon after, dressed, as she had promised, as a tree, covered in a rough brown cloth that looked like tree bark, with branches extending from her arms and the crown of her head. Several cloth and feather birds perched on her shoulders. Whimsical, humorous, always-make-it-look easy Schiap. Schiap got the louder applause when she made her entrance, and I saw Coco’s smile fade.
Who knew what was going through Coco’s mid that evening? Perhaps she had dreamed the night before of the orphanage, the father who had abandoned her and the mother who had died.
Pehaps she wasn’t thinking at all but only reacting, the way dry wood reacts when a match is put to it.
What are your favorite TV shows?
I love stories that have to be solved. Mysteries, thrillers, anything from the great TV versions of the Agatha Christie stories to NCIS with Mark Harmon. One of my all-time favorites was the brief but brilliant series of Sherlock Holmes stories that Benedict Cumberbatch starred in. They were true to Doyle’s vision of the great detective, but also very creative and ingenious, set in contemporary London with just the right amount of special effects and strange camera work. Writing a novel is very much like detective work, I find. Lots needing to be discovered, resolved, put back together after it’s been taken apart.
What is your favorite meal?
It really depends on the season. In warm weather, a saladenicoise served with a crisp, chilled glass of Sancerre, one of Ernest Hemingway's favorite wines.In the winter, a big bowl of spaghetti carbonara served with Sangiovese, followed by a French apple tart. I’m starving in cold weather. I like foods that remind me of places I’ve been, wonderful moments I shared with other people over meals. As I was writing The Last Collection, I kept remember the wonderful bistro meals of Paris – beefsteak pomme frites in particular, and duck al’orange. My mouth is watering.
If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?
It would be great fun (and lots of work) to write a generational series, following one family through many generations, starting perhaps in the 1780’s, the age of revolution, and going right through to today. Stories connect us and it would be interesting to create a family and connect the members of the family through their various stories and times.
Is there a writer you idolize? If so, who?
Ah. That would be Daphne du Maurier, the writer largely responsible for my own love of historical fiction. I’ve read everything she ever wrote several times over. When I go into book stores she’s the first name I look for, hoping I’ll find something of hers I haven’t yet discovered. Her plots are razor sharp, her language elegant, her characters memorable.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
I needed something with an edge, something a little ominous, since the novel is set during the time period when the German army is just about to invade France. So, I thought the word ‘Last’ had that edge to it, the since of something dangerous coming. And the novel is set in the Parisian fashion industry, so we needed something to do with couture. Collection. The Last Collection.
I hope your readers will enjoy the novel. Thanks for letting me visit your page!
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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 -