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Chanel Bonfireby Wendy Lawless
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"A dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship grows progressively worse with deepening alcohol use and emotional denial as depicted in L.A. actress Lawless's wrought and engaging memoir of growing up in the late 1960s. Lawless's mother, Georgann, was an orphan adopted by a wealthy, abusive couple in Kansas City, Mo., or at least that's what she recounted in moments of sadistic punishment to her own daughters, Wendy and Robin. Having left the girls' father, a Midwestern actor, for the glamorous older Broadway director Oliver Rea, who installed the broken family in the Dakota apartment building in Manhattan in 1968, then largely neglected them, Georgann lived off alimony and the largess of boyfriends, leaving the girls in the care of nannies and fancy schools. Georgann went from playing the Park Avenue socialite to Sloan Square glam girl, when they moved to London in 1971, to Connecticut Yankee housewife, when they relocated to the suburbs of Cambridge in the late 1970s, and the two sisters had to learn how to be resilient at new schools and in social situations, and, above all, to keep people from knowing the truth about their erratic, suicidal, alcoholic mother, who even lied about their real father and denied the girls access to him for 10 years. As the elder, the author acted as her mother's enabler and nurse, and with great hindsight conveys her early despair. Agent, Robert Guinsler, Sterling Lord. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Chanel Bonfire is both terribly funny and terribly tragic, often at the same time. With remarkable clarity, wit, and grace, Wendy Lawless recounts a childhood defined by her wildly unstable mother, a woman who can morph from Grace Kelly to Joan Crawford in the blink of an eye. I laughed a lot, teared up once or twice, and called my mom to say ‘I love you’ once I finished.” Cristina Alger, bestselling author of The Darlings
“What a heart-breaking memoir. I will never look at a blue nightgown the same way again!” Tim Gunn, New York Times bestselling author of Gunn’s Golden Rules and Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible
"Mothers, in spite of what we wish desperately to believe, are sometimes very, very bad at taking care of children. Wendy Lawless survived her mother's flagrant horror show to bear witness and record her astonishing childhood. Chanel Bonfire makes an undesirable truth more vivid: some mothers just plain suck." Susanna Sonnenberg, New York Times bestselling author of Her Last Death and She Matters
“[A] darkly comic memoir…[Lawless] chronicles her mother’s decline from sparkling femme fatale to desperate drunk in this simultaneously chilling and hilarious tale, whose unmistakable message is that though Lawless has, in some ways, led a privileged life, she never got the one thing she most wanted: her mother’s love." O Magazine
“Lawless’s chronicles of life with her charming, wildly unstable mother could be bleak, but the author’s wit, resilience, and compassion make her story illuminating and inspiring.” Reader's Digest
"A searing memoir that reads like a novel, as Lawless’s beautiful, unstable mother careens through the swinging sixties and seventies in New York, London, Paris and Morocco, two captive blond daughters in tow, before bottoming out in Boston. What astonishes is the author’s ability to tell her often hair-raising story of survival not only with lucidity and fluency but wry humor." Anne Korkeakivi, author of An Unexpected Guest
“I was blown away by Wendy's ability to tell the story of such an emotional, troubled upbringing with such heart, love, and oftentimes, humor. If she isn't bitter, maybe none of us have the right to be. I found her story riveting.” Sarah Colonna, New York Times bestselling author of Life as I Blow It
With clear-eyed grace, refreshing honesty, and flashing wit, Wendy Lawless tells the true story of her unhinged upbringing — a disjointed fairy tale of a childhood in chaos.
WITH CLEAR-EYED GRACE, REFRESHING HONESTY, AND FLASHING WIT, WENDY LAWLESS TELLS THE TRUE STORY OF HER UNHINGED UPBRINGING— A DISJOINTED FAIRY TALE OF A CHILDHOOD IN CHAOS
By the time Wendy Lawless turned seventeen, shed known for quite some time that she didnt have a normal mother. But that didnt stop her from wanting one. . . .
GEORGANN REA didnt bake cookies or go to PTA meetings; she wore a mink coat and always had a lit Dunhill plugged into her cigarette holder. She went through men like Kleenex, and didnt like dogs or children. Georgann had the ice queen beauty of a Hitchcock heroine and the cold heart to match.
In “a searing memoir that reads like a novel” (Anne Korkeakivi, An Unexpected Guest), Wendy Lawless 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 town houses of London, while the girls beautiful but damned mother desperately searches for glamour and fulfillment. Ultimately, Wendy and her sister must choose between living their own lives and being their mothers warden—the hardest, most painful, yet most important decision each of them will ever make.
About the Author
Wendy Lawless is an actress who has appeared on television, in regional theater, Off-Broadway in David Ives’s Obie-winning play All in the Timing and on Broadway in The Heidi Chronicles. Her essays about being a mom in Hollywood, including “Whatever Happened to Musical Chairs?” have appeared in the local Los Angeles press. She lives in California with her screenwriter husband and their two children.
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