|The Beautiful American|
Page 56:In the ornate doorway of Harrods' perfume hall people rushed past me as I stood, frozen.A radio played somewhere, Churchill's voice rising over the crowd, commending the English again for surviving the storm-beaten voyage. The war was over; we were picking up the pieces and carefully, slowly putting out lives back together. But my daughter was lost, in her own way another war casualty. The grief struck me anew and I was immobile in a doorway, unable to go forward or backward, unmoored by grief.
My comments: Set in Paris in the 1920s and during WWII and after, the novel tells the story of two very different American women and how their lives interact. The fictional Nora Tours encounters her childhood playmate in Paris after WWII - Lee Miller, a photographer known for her war photos and her marriage to another famous photographer, Man Ray. At the time, Nora is searching for her teenage daughter Dahlia who has gone missing in Paris.A few times I thought I saw her. I'd glimpse the back of a tall blond strolling the Champs-Elysees, or a profile of a woman sitting in a cafe with Lee's long, elegant nose.
The Beautiful American, published June 3, 2014, gives us another taste of the 20s, and references to Lee Miller's WWII photos. In that sense, it is a successful historical novel. I saw the first half of the novel primarily as a showcase for 1920s Paris and its famous artists. Characters make cameo appearances and names are dropped here and there - characters such as Chanel, Diaghilev, Nijinsky. Even Pablo Picasso and his wife Olga have a part in the novel. I would recommend The Beautiful American for its setting and the historical people it includes.
I was unable to become caught up in the second half of the book, however, the fictional story of Nora's life with her husband Jamie and her daughter Dahlia. They were overshadowed by the real life Lee Miller and the personalities in the Paris of the first half of the book, I felt.
Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.