Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin

Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by NAL Trade

ISBN: 0451465822 (ISBN13: 9780451465825)

From Goodreads:

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:

Told from Nora's point of view as she looks back on her journey from Poughkeepsie to Paris to London. When she left Poughkeepsie with Jamie, she thought her life would be one long romantic fairy-tale. It was anything but. The use of a single narrator made this feel more like a memoir and occasionally it was a bit tedious reading, especially in part one. For me, the story started out a bit choppy and at times, more "tell me" than "show me".  I think it would have helped if we, as readers,
saw the events from several more viewpoints. Even though at times it was an  interesting peek into the  pre-war Paris artistic scene, it felt like a recitation of name dropping and non-events.

Part two really picked up the pace. It became much more interesting with more character development and flow to the story. I liked the bit of mystery of what happened to Nora's daughter and the sense of place was well done. The book ended up being a 3.5* read instead of a 2.5*.

Disclosure: An e-galley of the book was provided by Nal/Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


  1. I like this period. So much of radical change particularly for women. I have been reading rather a lot from this time. This book also sounds very good

  2. Sounds like a good one, Kaye!

  3. GORGEOUS cover.

    It sounds like something I would like even though your rating is in the middle range.

    THANKS for sharing.


  4. I enjoy this era from time to time so I'll keep it in mind.


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