The Beautiful American
Release date: June 3, 2014
at New American Library/Penguin
Website | Goodreads
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 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 1920’s 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.
A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional women. [provided by the author]
For reviewers’ attention: brief, very mild sex and violence
The Beautiful American tells the story of two very different women in the span of over twenty years, from the early 1920s to after the second World War. Nora Tours is not an artist. She follows her photographer, High School sweetheart Jamie from New York all the way to Paris where they meet the celebrated Lee Miller–model, photographer, and surrealist Man Ray’s mistress. There, a foursome is formed. They take the city by storm. Soon, secrets start to pile up. Lee won’t acknowledge the past she shares with Nora that is tainted. Soon, devastation and secrets revealed shatters the foursome, breaking them up.
This novel was an interesting read. I didn’t love it, as I had hoped to. However, I did like it. I liked the Paris years. Lee was an interesting, selfish, perfectly conceited side character that kept me wanting to read more. Having known a little about Man Ray, I enjoyed learning more about him. I found Nora to be boring, far too love sick for me. She had limited desires to work, make a name for herself, be anyone but Jamie’s girlfriend. Jamie, too, I felt was a flat character. He was a little whiny when he talked. He didn’t add much. I think Nora could have done better. I did feel somewhat bad that he wasn’t given better chances as a photographer, though.
The plot and structure of the story was interesting. The backstory took up a majority of the book, which I wasn’t too happy with. I did enjoy it, for the most part, but would have liked it broken up a bit. It didn’t flow as smoothly as it could if it was broken up better. It was written with the current problem given a chapter in the beginning, then the backstory kicks in for the majority, then the current problem randomly kicks back in. There wasn’t much fluidity to it. It worked okay, but it could have been better. Again, wasn’t a major issue, but did stop me from giving it four or five stars rather than three on goodreads.com.
I thought Mackin did an excellent job historically. I felt I was in Paris during that time period, meeting everyone. She did not slack on the details. She did a great job describing the devastation of the War, as well. There are a lot of redeeming qualities about this book, but what she misses on, she really misses. I just didn’t feel the connection as deeply as I would have liked. I still would recommend this book as a good historical fiction novel because of the accuracy historically. I think you really feel you are there, in the past. I may just be too picky with the characters. There wasn’t anything immensely wrong with this novel. I hope you do give it a glance at.
Praise for The Beautiful American
Readers will rank [it] right up there with The Paris Wife?. A brilliant, beautifully written literary masterpiece???New York Times bestselling author Sandra Dallas
Will transport you to expat Paris and from there take you on a journey through the complexities of a friendship. Breathes new life into such luminaries as Man Ray, Picasso, and, of course, the titular character, Lee Miller, while at the same time offering up a wonderfully human and sympathetic protagonist in Nora Tours.Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist
Achingly beautiful and utterly mesmerizing. Sure to appeal to fans of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife and Erika Robuck’s Call Me Zelda, or indeed to anyone with a taste for impeccably researched and beautifully written historical fiction. Jennifer Robson, author of Somewhere in France
Beautiful.A fascinating account of a little-known woman who was determined to play by her own rules.Historical Novel Society
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeanne Mackin is the author of several historical novels set in France,
and has earned awards for her journalism
as well as a creative writing fellowship
from the American Antiquarian Society.
She lives in upstate New York with her husband,
cats and herd of deer,
and is still trying to master the French subjunctive.
Visit her website.
Buy the book | on Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books a Million | Google Play | iBookstore | Indiebound | Powells
Click on Entry-Form to enter the giveaway:
Visit and follow each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour
will give you 5 extra entries each time!
print for US/Canada residents only.
CLICK ON THE BANNER
TO READ OTHER REVIEWS, GUEST-POST, EXCERPT