I found it strange that some readers gave negative or highly critical reviews of this biography. Someone even commented on the difficulty in reading the French names! It's a little late to change Chanel's nationality and thank God! This biography is successful on a number of levels but primarily two: it recounts the fascinating life, in great detail, of the late Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel and it puts her professional contribution to the world in context. On a personal level, her life-story reads as a Dickens novel. Her's is a truly "rags-to-riches" story. Chanel was a woman who created a life and a legend against the odds. She was one of those rare and stunning creatures rising from practically nothing to become a household name. Her family was destitute. Her father abandoned her at an orphanage. Her attempts in music and theatre came to nothing. Her sewing skills were atrocious! Only after a young gentleman named Balsan recognized her talent through her unconventional beauty did her true potential begin to emerge. Chanel knew all of the greatest people of her age: Stravinsky, Cocteau, Dali, Misia Sert, and the Duke of Westminster, among others. Many of these people she knew intimately. How tragic that even after these acquaintances and global successes as a designer, Chanel never really found success in love. Professionally, the impact of her designs are still with us today and influencing generations of new designers and artists. From a perspective of fashion, Chanel almost single-handedly pulled the 19th century world into the modern age by pulling women out of corsets and sliding them into pants. The "little black dress" and classic Chanel suit are not only articles of clothing, they are timeless works of art. Madsen has succeeded in writing a biography that does not fall short as other books on Chanel have in the past. His biography begins BEFORE her birth and continues on AFTER her death. He explores her roots and discusses the ongoing impact of her life, while filling in all the opulent details in between. If you want to know who Chanel was and why she is still so important today, pick up this book. Now if they would only do a feature film treatment!