With a name like Coco, she thinks people expect her to be as exotic and glamorous as the famous designer, not an ordinary-looking small-town antiques dealer who could win an award for living cautiously.
But when a vintage Chanel handbag turns up in a box of worthless bric-a-brac, Coco's quiet world is turned upside down. Where did it come from? And is it just coincidence that it's the same bag Coco's late mother always wanted for her?
When Coco discovers a mysterious, decades-old letter hidden in the bag's lining, she sets off on a quest to piece together the story behind it, stumbling across secrets that span three generations as she goes. Could the beautiful Chanel bag be about to teach Coco more than she wants to learn? Or will it show her just where her heart can take her if she lets it lead the way?
One of the first novels I reviewed for this blog was Niamh Greene’s ‘A Message to Your Heart’. It was a lovely, uplifting read and a book I still recommend to others. So, when I heard a new novel by Niamh Greene was being released, I immediately knew I wanted to pick up a copy and read it, hoping I would end up enjoying this new novel as much as I did Niamh’s previous one. Luckily, I received a review copy of ‘Coco’s Secret’ (thank you, Penguin!) and couldn’t wait to get stuck in!
When she was just thirteen years old, Coco Swan’s mother died unexpectedly, leaving her in the care of her grandparents. Over the years, she has grown up in a small and safe English village, helping her grandmother Ruth with the family antiques shop. Coco often thinks about her mother, who lived a thrilling and exotic life travelling the world to find amazing new pieces to sell in the antique store, and how she decided to name her daughter after the fabulous Coco Chanel, hoping her daughter would grow up to do big things as well. Coco feels she is the complete opposite of all this: plain, leading an uneventful life, invisible. However, one day Coco buys a marble topped table at an auction, and in the boxes of junk on top of it she finds a beautiful real Chanel bag; just like the one her mother had always wanted her to have and cherish. Within the bag, Coco finds a letter, and soon she finds herself embarking on a journey to discover the true story behind this letter...
Niamh Greene is a born storyteller and her ability to turn something slightly random, like a handbag, into something amazing is what makes this novel such an enjoyable read. As a reader, you are taken on an enchanting journey through the past and present, and I found myself with a constant smile on my face while reading this book. I instantly liked Coco, she’s an easily loveable and relatable heroine, and I loved joining her on her journey to discover the story behind the Chanel handbag and the letter inside it, but also on her path to discover who she is and what she wants in life.
One of the things that also instantly attracted me to this novel is the way antiques and vintage fashion play a significant role. I love strolling around antique stores, and learning more about the history of fashion femme fatales like Coco Chanel, so this element of the novel definitely caught my attention. Next to that, Niamh Greene has created a cast of easily loveable characters (including Coco’s grandmother Ruth, such a great and inspiring woman), and managed to add a mysterious feel to the book, making you want to turn the pages until you know everything about that bag and the letter. ‘Coco’s Secret’ is a warm, enchanting, feel-good read that I recommend to any female reader, and I personally can’t wait for Niamh Greene’s next book!