Jun 27, 2014

Book Review: The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin

 *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader  *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you. *Post it. *Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice Also Book Beginnings by Rose City Reader.

The Beautiful American
Book beginning:
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. 
Page 56: 
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. 
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.

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.


Tea said...

I like books that take during the war years. This one seems really good. Can't go wrong starting with Harrods? Have you been there?

Brian Joseph said...

I certainly cannot discount books that mix fact with fiction, however, the concept still makes me a little disconcerted as a reader. Based upon your comments it sounds like it was a bad mix in this book.

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I do love this era in books and movies...maybe the mix of eras wouldn't work for me either, but the overall story sounds enticing. Thanks for sharing, and here's mine: “ MR. CHURCHILL’S SECRETARY”

Anonymous said...

Hmm I think I agree with Brian....but thank you so much for sharing. Wouldn't have heard of this book otherwise :D

My BB and 56

Sandra Nachlinger said...

Sounds like this could be a good book, simply because I'm fascinated with this era. I'll add it to my "maybe" list.
Here's the link to my Friday post: INTERIOR DESIGNS.

gautami tripathy said...

You have highlighted a great book!!

Here is my POST.

Claudia {Sparrowhawk} said...

I would love to visit Paris! Thanks for sharing your read :)

Sparrow's BB & Friday 56

Katherine P said...

I love the time period and the premise but I think this might be one to get from the library versus buying since the two parts couldn't mesh well.

Suko said...

Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts!

fredamans said...

Beautiful cover and sounds like a beautiful book.

Happy weekend!

Vicki said...

Sounds interesting. I'd love to visit Paris!

Tea said...

I'd love to have her nose, long and elegant. I really like this book.

The Bookworm said...

That's too bad that the second half wasn't as good as the first. The premise sounds so good.

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