Thursday, 31 January 2013

{review} Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless

Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless
Hardcover304 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Gallery Books

A stunning memoir about an actress's unconventional, heartbreaking childhood with an unstable alcoholic and suicidal mother — a real-life Holly Golightly turned Mommie Dearest — and the unusual strength that allowed her to rise above it all.

By the time Wendy Lawless turned seventeen, she'd known for quite some time that she didn't have a normal mother. But that didn't stop her from wanting one.

Georgann Rea didn't bake cookies or go to PTA meetings; she wore a mink coat and always had a lit Dunhill plugged into her cigarette holder. She had slept with too many men, and some women, and she didn't like dogs or children. Georgann had the ice queen beauty of a Hitchcock heroine and the cold heart to match.

In this evocative, darkly humorous memoir, Wendy deftly charts the highs and lows of growing up with her younger sister in the shadow of an unstable, fabulously neglectful mother. Georgann, a real-life Holly Golightly who constantly reinvents herself as she trades up from trailer-park to penthouse, suffers multiple nervous breakdowns and suicide attempts, while Wendy tries to hide the cracks in their fractured family from the rest of the world.

Chanel Bonfire depicts a childhood blazed through the refined aeries of The Dakota and the swinging townhouses of London, while the girls' beautiful but damned mother desperately searches for glamour and fulfillment. Ultimately, they must choose between living their own lives and being their mother's warden.


When I was a teenager, I was more than just a pain in the ass.  It was more than just the usual teenage girl drama - I was a royal bitch.  I thought my parents were insane.  I thought I was insane.  To be honest and fair, we all were.  I had issues they didn't know how to deal with, or even diagnose for a long time.  And surprisingly, my parents were also human and also had issues that THEY didn't know how to deal with.  So we all lived together, ignoring issues and fighting insanely, alternating between tears and hugs like it was a normal thing.

Now, I consider my parents some of my best friends.  If you had told me when I was 14 that I would ever consider my mom my best friend, I probably would have laughed hysterically in my matching wolf sweater and sweat pants.  

This story is NOTHING like that.  

I was ecstatic when NetGalley approved me for this book, as I have a morbid fascination with any stories involving less than stellar childhoods.  Makes me feel less alone, y'know?

Chanel Bonfire does not in any way read like a memoir.  It feels more like your best friend telling you a story, interrupting her constantly to scream "THEN WHAT HAPPENED?" as you sit wide eyed and alert, waiting impatiently to hear what craziness occurs next.

I found myself constantly walking the line of feeling sorry for the insanity Wendy lived with for so long, and never wanting her to stop telling more of her mother's crazy moments.  She tells this story so lyrically that it's more than easy to forget this is above all, a true story.  

After finishing this book, I had a big urge to tell my no-longer-as-crazy parents that I loved them.  Unfortunately, that urge occurred just as my visiting mother and father had a very Constanza-like moment in my tiny apartment, yelling from different rooms about where my new coffee maker should go, and no one heard me say "Um, on the shelf maybe?  And by the way, I love you guys.  "

1 comment:

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