From Paris in the1920s 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, expatriate American NoraTours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing 16-year-old daughter. There she unexpectedly meets up with an oldacquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emergedfrom the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts tosurvive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter's life. Lee suffersfrom 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 achance 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.
©2014 Jeanne Mackin (P)2014 Blackstone Audiobooks
I listen to and have recently started to write reviews. I've found the reviews have helped me to select books.
Nora and Lee were once friends while they lived in Poughkeepsie, New York. They both met up again in Paris where there were parties, fun and lots of men. Nora came with her boyfriend, Jamie. but Lee took him away and Nora left Paris. Pablo Picasso found her a home in France, where Nora would find a safe haven to have her baby and raise her. However, at the age of 16, while Nora had to find a way to get herself out of trouble, which took a couple of days, her daughter wasn't at home when she returned.
The book was good but took too long to get to the theme of the story. I was about to quit listening quite often but once I was about three-quarters into the book, I continued to listen until the end. The narrator gave me a problem from the beginning. Kate Reading, the narrator, had what I would call a breathy voice. She kept ending the sentences with that irritating sound that made me want to quit. I think that with a better narrator, the book may have been a better listen.
The Beautiful American was simply wonderful - a great story, well developed characters, masterful narration. I felt like the book had so many themes relevant to all: universal human imperfection, true love and friendship, war and betrayal, kindness and brutality. The story feels authentic, honest, believable, with a very satisfying ending. This one stands out. I was thoroughly engaged, and will be looking for more by Jeanne Mackin.
Since all other reviews are 4 -5 stars I'm guessing maybe reading versus listening is what I did not like about this book. I believe the summation of The Beautiful American is a gross misrepresentation of the plot. I did listen to the entire book with the hope that the story of Nora Tours would go somewhere interesting. I do agree with other reviewers, this story was a unique point of view of WWII, but unlike other reviewers I believe it failed with the execution.
I don't need books to move at lightening speed and I enjoy books that are descriptive and go into depth about the day-to-day life of people, however, several times I felt this book was repetitive, dragging and predictable. First, the majority of this book is about the 1920's not WWII. Second, how many times does the lead character - Nora, her best friend - Lee and their partners need to go out to lavish dinners and drinking? I felt Nora's character was naive and I never found myself really caring for her or her predicaments. In fact, I was annoyed her character trajectory was so predictable. Why is this book named "The Beautiful American"? If taken literally then I question why her partner and her best friend are described as beautiful Americans and the book painstakingly repeats that Nora is average, if not below average in her looks? This book should have been about Lee who literally was the beautiful american. Many times while listening I wondered what European women would think of this book, especially in regards to the best friend's personality? Is Lee a stereotypical version of an ex-pat in Europe -- using men to get ahead, riding on the coats of rich men, sociopathic in that she makes decisions based on only her needs without care or concern for others, and acting as if she is slightly better than everyone else around her? Again, the book should have been about Lee's life. Nora's daughter going missing happened at the very end of the book, which was not what I had expected after reading the book summation. Also, the author barely writes about neither Lee's war correspondent years nor Nora's escape and hiding in Sweden, which sounds a lot more interesting than their 1920's.
It is not the best of books but a really good book. That is not damning with faint praise by any means. Jeanne Mackin wrote a book that held my interest, kept me coming back to my Kindle for a listen and gave yet another view of the WW2 war years.
It was written by a woman who knows the woman's point of view. Not all do. She has a mature understanding of what it is like to suffer lost love and the deep attachment to a child. She understands the young heart that wants to live outside the box.
Yes, I am certain that she read for the Wheel of Time series. She is a fine actor.
I cannot remember the name of the Russian immigrant with whom Nora lived for a time in southern France. She is the one I would most like to know. She had courage and I am certain a tremendous story to tell on her own. (Hint to author)
Just appreciation for a great listen and hope for more.
I love fiction that makes me research history! This is the story of Lee Miller set around a fictional childhood friend. Fast moving story of how childhood abuse can mold a person for the rest of her life.
Avid reader. Constant Audible listener. Currently deep into foreign crime detective novels. Especially a fan of noire and police procedural.
In spite of the choppy, monotoned narration, the story was very good. An inside look at French life -- the artists, the intrigue, the hardships suffered in the years around WWII. The heart of the story deals with love and loss; loyalty and betrayal; forgiveness and remembrance. Ultimately, it is about courage -- to love.
I am a working mom who loves to squeeze in listening to books while walking, doing chores or commuting.
I enjoyed the narrator. She had a nice, soothing voice, so I think that held my interest in the book better than had I just read the print version
I think she help my interest more so than reading the book. There are stretches in the book that seem long and uneventful, so a good narrator helps with this.
The book was OK to listen to while multi-tasking. It is not something that I found myself glued to though.
The author does a good job of weaving this tale of friendship, love, loss and joy against the backdrop of a changing world. For those who, like me, enjoy the World War II time-frame this is worth the listen. I'm thinking of suggesting this for our Book Club. Plenty of discuss -able themes. I appreciate the complexity of making perfume more after listening to this story!
This story passes my personal "good book" test because I miss some of the characters now that I'm finished with it. The time period and geographical area covered is different from most books involving WWII, so that was also nice. The limited amount about the perfume trade was also interesting.
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