Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review: The Beautiful American

The Beautiful AmericanAuthor: Jeanne Mackin
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: NAL Trade

From Paris in the 1920s to London after the Blitz, two women find that a secret from their past reverberates through years of joy and sorrow....

As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts to survive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter’s life. Lee suffers from what she witnessed as a war correspondent photographing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920s Paris, when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee’s magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever. Will Nora’s reunion with Lee give them a chance to forgive past betrayals…and break years of silence to forge a meaningful connection as women who have shared the best and the worst that life can offer?

A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional women.

“You look stricken,” Lee said, taking my hand. “Food, and a good strong drink. That’s what you need.”

Fame got you credit, but at the end of the month it didn’t pay the tab.

The rest was history, as they say.

A story about two young girls growing up in the late 1920’s, grew up in the 30’s, and experienced war times in the 40’s. Nora and Lee are old friends who reconnect during wartime. Nora is traveling all over Europe searching for her missing daughter when she runs into her old friend, Lee Miller, a world renowned model turned photographer. Lee is suffering from what she has witnessed after photographing the terrible events occurring at the Nazi concentration camps. Nora and Lee once had a rocky relationship, but this is a story about learning to forgive, being free, and living with desire and passion. These two extraordinary women weather some painful times together, but isn’t that what friends are for?

This time period is always one of my favorites to read about. The 1920’s-40’s was a time of glamour and glitz for some women, and it is always reading about their lives when I find that I would love to have been able to experience the times with them. Things were so much more simple then, even though a war was raging. Nora and Lee both have amazing backstories and are beautifully written characters. I could not possibly decide which of them I liked better. They both had flaws, weaknesses, and strengths. Their relationship definitely complimented each other. Such a beautiful tale set in a beautiful time.

I must give props to Jeanne Mackin, the author of this novel. It is not every day that I find a historical fiction novel in which I am so enamored, especially from the very first page. It is difficult to sale me on a book that combines very real, factual events with some fictional events and characters as well. Mackin writes about events that happened during the war that were very real, but she also includes things that were fictional and characters of her own design to this novel also. I loved every part of it!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at NAL Trade in exchange for my honest review***

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