Published: 26th March 2019
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Format: Paperback courtesy of publisher for review
Inspired by the incredible true story of Lee Miller, Vogue model turned one of the first female war photojournalists, the new novel by the bestselling author of The Paris Seamstress
Manhattan, Paris, 1942: When Jessica May’s successful modelling career is abruptly cut short, she is assigned to the war in Europe as a photojournalist for Vogue. But when she arrives the army men make her life as difficult as possible. Three friendships change that: journalist Martha Gellhorn encourages Jess to bend the rules, paratrooper Dan Hallworth takes her to places to shoot pictures and write stories that matter, and a little girl, Victorine, who has grown up in a field hospital, shows her love. But success comes at a price.
France, 2005: Australian curator D’Arcy Hallworth arrives at a beautiful chateau to manage a famous collection of photographs. What begins as just another job becomes far more disquieting as D’Arcy uncovers the true identity of the mysterious photographer — and realises that she is connected to D’Arcy’s own mother, Victorine.
Crossing a war-torn Europe from Italy to France, The French Photographer is a story of courage, family and forgiveness, by the bestselling author of The Paris Seamstress and A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald.
Hands down The French Photographer by Natasha Lester is perhaps my favourite book that I’ve read this year to date… and that’s not a comment I make lightly.
Right from the very first page, I was effortlessly transported to the world of 1942; first in New York City then to Italy, London and later France. Lester’s world building was fascinating, and she contrasted war torn Europe and that of 2005 France exceptionally well. So well in fact, that I found myself racing through the book’s 448 pages eager for more of Jessica May’s exceptional tale, and the world where men like Dan Hallworth existed.
Jessica May’s character was mesmerising, while the book tells me how her natural model-worthy appearance was jaw-dropping, it was her mind and quick whit that held me captive and kept me wanting more of her story. While I appreciated the back and forth between 1942 Europe and D’Arcy Hollworth’s 2005 art-history based France, and found both women interesting and their tales inexplicitly linked, I found myself increasingly desperate to get back to the story of Jessica May and how she became who she was. A point further heightened by the knowledge that May’s story was inspired and is based upon the true story of Lee Miller, a woman I desperately want to read more up on now.
It’s no secret that I love history and historical fiction, with this in mind I knew The French Photographer was going to be my kind of book, what I didn’t expect however was to be so blown away by it. I could not put the book down. At. All. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about the characters, the situations they found themselves in and injustices of war. I was desperate for our characters to get some good news, and their own happy endings, all the while knowing that for the majority of people in their situation, happy endings were not a reality. I guess you could say I was completely and utterly hooked on Lester’s characters and her brilliant storytelling, so much so that I became obsessed with the book… and you know what? I regret nothing. I already have plans to dive right back into the story in the hopefully not too distant future to experience it all over again!
In all honesty, The French Photographer is a book of many emotions. I laughed while reading it, and had my heart broken more times than I am willing to admit. A smile was plastered across my features and tears lined by face as some of the best and worst elements of humanity and history were brought out in all too real settings and events. Goosebumps rattled my skin as anxiety for the characters and their emotional upheaval scattered my rational thoughts. These people felt like long lost friends and family members and I just wanted to give them all a massive hug and keep them all from harm. Especially our heroines and heroes, and injury prone Jennings!
The French Photographer is a book that made me think, that expressed another side of war in all it’s glory and haunting nightmarish elements. It’s a book that rattles the reader, while comforting them and giving them hope, a sense of love and place in a world that is really sometimes just too foreign for us to describe adequately. It was beautiful and breathtaking and a story that everyone needs to read.
Natasha Lester’s writing is second to none, and with this book alone she has firmly cemented herself as one of my favourite Australian Authors and a must-buy author from here on out. Her writing is as exquisite as it is emotional heartbreaking and up-lifting, and she has crafter a page turning experience like no other. I dare you to read The French Photographer and not be held captivated and hostage by the haunting tale of war, family and love.
I highly recommend this book for fans of historical fiction; it is ideal for fans of Pamela Hart.
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