Friday, June 13, 2014

The Beautiful American by Jeanne MacKin

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.

My Thoughts...An absolutely beautiful novel. The novel begins with Nora looking all over Paris for her daughter. We don't know how old she is or the situation surrounding her disappearance. Only that Nora is looking at places she believes her daughter, Dahlia, would search out. While looking for her daughter, Nora runs into her old friend Lee. There are a few 'flashbacks', but when Nora goes off with Lee, the author tells us Nora's story up until current day.

The novel isn't one where there is a lot of action. It's a story, a recounting of time gone by. Beautifully written. I found myself drawn into this world (pre WWII) in Paris, the artists. The narrator (Nora) seems enthralled by her friend Lee. Lee is beautiful, sexual, powerful and controlling. Things Nora is not. I found out, while reading this Lee Miller was indeed an actual person. I understood Nora's fascination with Lee. On one hand she is beautiful and manipulative, but there is a vulnerability to her, a softness that really drew me in. I wanted to dislike her, yet I couldn't.

Both woman live in Europe during WWII, having very different experiences. It changes them. It grows them. Moments where I had to put the novel down at the reality of war...the ugliness. MacKin shows not only the reality and pain, but the beauty of survival during the era. Emotional.
The Beautiful American is captivating to say the least. Highly recommending.

The Beautiful American by Jeanne MacKin
The Beautiful American by Jeanne MacKin

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