The story begins at a convent orphanage in Aubazine, France. Three sisters Antoinette, Gabrielle and Julia-Berthe have been taken in by the nuns after their young mother dies of consumption and their father abandons them. Their two brothers were sent to work on a farm. The nuns are very strict and critical of the girls and their stations in life, however they are well cared for and the nuns’ influence carries over into the girls’ adulthood.
The most famous of the girls is Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel. Known for her beautiful line of clothes and fragrances, she is also famous for lying about her upbringing. However, the truth about her upbringing makes her eventual success more stunning. The oldest sister Julia-Berthe’s life is up-rooted when she falls in love with a married man. She is then sent to live with grandparents leaving Antoinette and Gabrielle at the orphanage.
Judithe Little chose to write the story from the prospective of Antoinette and her relationship with her sister, and how she stayed loyal to Gabrielle and shared the pain of their abandonment. Along with their young aunt Andrienne Chanel they were referred to as the “Three Graces”. Always looking to find their place in society, their journey propels them out of poverty and to the stylish cafes of Moulins, and beyond where they start by creating a small hat shop on the rue Cambon in Paris and continue to expand their boutique business to glamorous French resort towns. When World War I breaks out, their lives are changed dramatically and they must find the courage to go on, even if it is apart.
The story takes the reader into the life of high fashion and shows the courage of two young girls to be “Something Better” even before they knew what that would be.