Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless

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In her stunning memoir, Wendy Lawless tells the often heartbreaking tale of her unconventional upbringing with an unstable alcoholic and suicidal mother—a real-life Holly Golightly turned Mommie Dearest—and the uncommon sense of resilience that allowed her to rise above it all.

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’d slept with too many men and a few women, and she didn’t like dogs or chil­dren. Georgann possessed the icy beauty of a Hitchcock heroine with the cold heart to match.

From living at the Dakota in 1960s Manhattan to London’s swinging town houses and beyond, Wendy Lawless and her younger sister navigated day-to-day life as their unstable and fabulously neglectful mother, Georgann, chased her delusions, suffered dramatic breakdowns, and survived suicide attempts. With clear-eyed grace and flashing wit, Lawless portrays the highs and lows of her unhinged upbringing—and how she survived her mother’s endlessly destructive search for glamour and fulfillment—in “a searing memoir that reads like a novel” (Anne Korkeakivi, An Unexpected Guest).

About Wendy Lawless

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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.
Published January 8, 2013 by Gallery Books. 321 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
Peak Rank on Feb 17 2013
Weeks as Bestseller

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Kirkus Reviews

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The product of a fatally flawed role model who perfected the cruel art of “playing dead,” Lawless and her sister miraculously matured and went on to live fulfilling lives amid Georgann’s excessively reckless, grandiose attention-getting antics.

Nov 01 2012 | Read Full Review of Chanel Bonfire

Publishers Weekly

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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 ...

Nov 05 2012 | Read Full Review of Chanel Bonfire

Book Reporter

When Georgann left James for another man (the affair announced at a party to all the guests), Wendy and Robin were taken from their father, told he didn’t love them, and whisked around the world with their increasingly erratic mother for the next decade.

Jan 09 2013 | Read Full Review of Chanel Bonfire

Book Reporter

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.

Jan 08 2013 | Read Full Review of Chanel Bonfire

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Jan 08 2013 | Read Full Review of Chanel Bonfire

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Mercy Pilkington (932 Posts) Mercy Pilkington is a young-adult author and a teacher in a correctional facility.

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Within the next ten years, public school classrooms across the country are going to look a lot more like Mercy’s classroom because the educational possibilities with these kinds of technologies are limitless.

Jan 07 2013 | Read Full Review of Chanel Bonfire


By the time Wendy Lawless was 17 she had realised that she didn't have a normal mother.

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