Rating: 4 / 5
Chanel Bonfire is one of those books that after I finished I immediately thought, “Well, I’m sure glad my childhood wasn’t like that.” Wendy Lawless’ childhood was anything but normal. Her mother, Georgann was the farthest thing from soccer mom one can imagine. Instead, her primary occupation seemed to be making sure there is a man in her life to take care of her and her two young children, Wendy and Robin. All the trappings of a socialite, the dinner parties and fancy clothes, were what made Georgann tick, to the detriment of Wendy and Robin.
As I read this book, I couldn’t help but be appalled at Georgann’s negligence, and, quite frankly, surprised that Wendy and Robin have turned out the way they are. Their mother locked them in a closet for a day, told them their father didn’t want them anymore, and moved them around town and even to another country seemingly on a whim. Stability seemed overrated, as did providing a proper childhood. How well Georgann was able to manipulate a guy was reflected in Wendy and Robin’s lifestyle. When Georgann was with a wealthy man, the girls had beautiful clothes and lived in places such as the famed Dakota building in NYC or chic apartments in London. However, when Georgann was strapped for cash due to poor financial management, and there was no man to bail her out, all three of them ended up in middle-class dwellings in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. As a result, Wendy and Robin became reliant on themselves and each other.
Chanel Bonfire is a great example of overcoming the odds, of knowing that a traumatizing childhood, while difficult and indelible, is surmountable. Lawless’ memoir pulled me in from the get-go, was tragic, funny, and incredibly engaging. While it was short, it definitely packed a punch, and left me cheering wildly for Wendy and Robin.