The Beautiful American. Jeanne Mackin. New American Library Trade: Penguin Group (USA). June 2014. 384 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780451465825.
Expatriate Nora from America remembers her friendship with Lee Miller as a child. Nora was the child of the gardener who took care of Lee’s yard. At first they were allowed to play together, but then something tragic happened to Lee and the friendship was abruptly terminated.
Years later Lee and Nora meet in Europe during the WWII years, but Lee doesn’t seem to recall their earlier friendship, only the time of their European journey. For Lee has evolved into a very successful model who is the lover of the brilliant artist Man Ray.
Nora falls in love with another artist only to suffer a brutal betrayal. All of the involved characters meet up several times over the years of the Vichy takeover. During that time Nora will meet and get to know the famous artist Pablo Picasso as well as other notable characters pivotal to the cultural changes rocking European and American society.
Nora loses her daughter toward the end of the Vichy government’s brutal reign. Heartbroken and possess with the need to find her child, who is actually a grown-up woman with her own story that she definitely does not want to share with anyone, least of all her mother.
An added bonus involves the world of perfume as both a business and an artistic significance during this time – beauty and fragrance in a most unsavory time!
The Beautiful American is a tightly plotted, moving story filled with the bohemian allure of the artists living expatriate lives in Paris and elsewhere throughout Europe as well as the ferocity and complex machinations of wartime soldiers and political leaders. The story’s haunting ambience will remain in the reader’s thoughts and feelings for a long time after experiencing this exquisitely depicted story of love, betrayal, forgiveness, haunting memories and so much more!
Finely crafted, Jeanne Mackin! A keeper of historical fiction for sure!