THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN by Jeanne Mackin is going to appeal to those of you who love getting your history through fiction. And those of you who can’t read enough about France, ex-pat life, and before, during, and after ww11.
I fell in love with this book. It was a slow burn. I believe Mackin has nailed this era. And she’s done it in such a sophisticated way. All the things I love about France appear in this story based on a real life photographer named Lee Miller.
There is plenty of debauchery in this tale. Lee Miller is portrayed here as a larger than life party girl. She came from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. looking for more in life. Boy oh boy did she find it.
The art world, Pablo Picasso, the French Riviera, the perfume world of Grasse. They all show up here and demand attention.
The story is told in the voice of a young woman named Nora. Nora runs away to Paris with the love of her life, leaving her parents behind. When she hooks up with Lee in Paris it is not for the first time. You see, she had known Lee back home in the states. In fact, Nora knows things about Lee that have been kept secret.
As much as I loved the story told in Paris, I loved the wartime story in and around Grasse even more. This is a part of France I have never visited, but now feel I have. This place sounds heavenly. And Grasse, Nice, and the surrounding small towns, experienced the war differently, however, they suffered just as much.
Once again, you get a glimpse of life lived through the eyes of artists. And their friends. They were all so darn alive!
The underlying secret involving Lee continues throughout the story, and really takes root after the war when Nora’s own daughter disappears without a trace.
Lee Miller was a famous photographer who is known for her unique photography. Lee was one of the first photographers to arrive on the scene at the camps just after the holocaust. It changed her forever. Once the muse for the artist Man Ray, Lee modeled for Vogue. She was the real beautiful American.
You’ll get happily lost in this enchanting novel. A perfect fit.
My review copy came from New American Library, part of Penguin Group. Thank you so very much.