Blog Book Tour | “The Beautiful American” by Jeanne Mackin

Posted Tuesday, 29 September, 2015 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “The Beautiful American” virtual book tour through HFVBT: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author Jeanne Mackin, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why I felt I might fancy this novel:

I have a personal penchant for what I refer to as ‘Biographical Historical Fiction’ wherein the historical persons who lived are aptly portrayed through a historical treatment of their lives by a novelist who has a flaire for bringing their lives so fully to life, we feel as though we’ve met them in person. You’ll find that I have read quite a hearty array of historicals which befit this category and am always quite in full search of new writers who can lead me back through the corridors of the past and introduce me to someone who will bring history alive to me in all it’s glory and heartache. As for each life told, there is a happy balance of joy and strife, such is a well-rounded life well lived and told thereafter the person has passed on.

I personally find joy in this section of historical stories because the past becomes fiercely alive through the voices of the authors who pen these kinds of stories. We get to take an up close and personal voyage back through the tides of time whilst being caught up in the livelihood of a person who truly lived and felt every inch of the emotions we hope to catch sight of in the novel.

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Note on the Cover Art: Did anyone else notice the sepia tone of hue on the cover when Lee Miller is being highlighted and how Paris in the background is a more muted reverie? I felt this was a fitting touch to the novel, especially as you become further into her folds, this novel doesn’t quite want to let you go – it stays with you, and you realise things you hadn’t seen at first glaance.

Blog Book Tour | “The Beautiful American” by Jeanne MackinThe Beautiful American
by Jeanne Mackin
Source: Author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

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 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. Will Nora’s reunion with Lee give them a chance to forgive past betrayals, and break years of silence?

A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional woman.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

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ISBN: 9780451465825

Also by this author:

Genres: Biographical Fiction, Historical Fiction


Published by New American Library

on 3rd June 2014

Format: Paperback ARC

Pages: 352

Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

Published By: New American Library (NAL)
( ) an imprint of Penguin Group (USA
)
Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook

Converse via: #TheBeautifulAmerican

About Jeanne Mackin

Jeanne Mackin

Jeanne Mackin’s novel, The Beautiful American (New American Library), based on the life of photographer and war correspondent Lee Miller, received the 2014 CNY award for fiction. Her other novels include A Lady of Good Family, about gilded age personality Beatrix Farrand, The Sweet By and By, about nineteenth century spiritualist Maggie Fox, Dreams of Empire set in Napoleonic Egypt, The Queen’s War, about Eleanor of Aquitaine, and The Frenchwoman, set in revolutionary France and the Pennsylvania wilderness.

Jeanne Mackin is also the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers (Cornell University publications) and co-editor of The Book of Love (W.W. Norton.) She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and a keynote speaker for The Dickens Fellowship. Her work in journalism won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, in Washington, D.C. She has taught or conducted workshops in Pennsylvania, Hawaii and at Goddard College in Vermont.

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War dramas (and #biohistfic) = joy of Jorie’s:

War dramas have the power to either crush your soul outright (see a quick recap of my favourites attached to my review of Jan Moran’s Scent of Triumph) through the emotional angst and the brutality of the living horror war deposits into your mind as you read one person’s dramatic life inside that hallowed part of history where lives were forever upturnt, altered and changed. It can also be enlightening and edge you a bit closer to understanding the sociological background of how everyday people not only embraced the war years through necessity to survive but did not allow themselves to become defined by them either.

My Review of The Beautiful American:

There is an opportune quotation at the opening of The Beautiful American I could instantly latch onto as this is one of those novels I felt internally close too prior to reading it – almost as if it were written already I’d find myself unable to pull myself away from it’s context and find a well of joy in it’s readings. In my interview with Ms Mackin, there are keen insights I was tapping into whilst I was responding to her replies – where even after I read the novel, I found myself knowingly realising how aware I had been about this novel prior to reading it.

A full-bodied world opens  your mind and your heart as The Beautiful American begins as if to bespeak of an earlier rendezvous where you had become partially acquainted with Nora and Lee. Nora’s voice achingly beseeches you at the jumpstart – a mother on a dire quest to reunite with her daughter. A path to intersect with a near-forgotten childhood friend (Lee Miller) and a collison of sealed memories (on both their parts) to assault their minds with renewed emotion.

Nora and Lee met through their parents, Nora’s father having been employed by Mr Miller – their class distinction a barrier set by their mothers and yet unfelt by each other. Kismet close by age and by design of personality – one daring and innately adventurous; whilst the other trying to find her way out of tradition. They shared a passion for spontaneity and for living their hours through their desires – even as children. When tragedy befell Lee, Nora was pulled out of her friendship by an overbearing Mum without so much as a by your leave. The two girls whose innocence and zest for life became broken and jaded by circumstances neither could fully understand, much less change – they drifed apart, making radical choices that would alter their paths.

Even without a direct connection to each other, they were being pulled closer to each other in ways that would befit serendipitous interventions – as they both end up in Paris at the same time. Each of them a bit wary of the other in some ways, and Lee moreso than Nora, more fully intent on resuming their friendship albeit a few alternations to their direct history. Nora lived willingly with a conviction of believing that if you put your feet forward on a path you were fully confident was the best path for you to walk, life would work out for you. If you put in the hours, the rewards of your patience would be tangible, yet what she short-sighted herself on is how the world can change the people you love. Sometimes love isn’t quite as strong as friendship; relationships which are not rooted in friendship or a connection outside of physical love is as though your perpetually walking on uncertain ground. Half sinking in doubt and attempting to cart under the rug (so to speak) the fears your own conscience doesn’t want to broach.

I found myself drawn into Nora’s story-line quite immediately – she’s very relatable as she’s an ‘everywoman’ where you can attach yourself to her because it’s how her story relates to situations that are not only plausible but could be a variety of stories attached to the majority; you feel she’s a living person walking off the page. In contrast, Lee Miller is presented as being almost a full step outside her image, where the differences between her public and private worlds are as vulnerable as peeling back an onion. The layers of your most raw emotional states and the silence of words unspoken whilst chaste to humour and a light-hearted mannerism for living only on the edge of tomorrow, gave the impression Miller was half afraid to slow down because it would be acknowledging she’d have to catch up to herself first and foremost. Part of me felt as though her life was a race to out run herself – as if she hadn’t quite resolved her issues of the past and the trauma she sustained.

I’m positively spellbound by this novel — I fell asleep inside it’s pages whilst happily encroached inside it again all over again the next day — I cannot even begin to express how much I love this novel; the reading is addictive, the words, the voice of the characters — it’s all so very intoxicating!

How Mackin’s literary voice is a breath of fresh air and an unputdownable exploration of the 1930’s in Paris:

The words flow out of Mackin’s pen with such a beautiful conveyance of the ordinary and the sublime – you feel like you’ve transferred into this novel full and true; leaving only a mere whisper of yourself behind as evidence of your transition. It’s the type of novel your aching to read (even without realising it’s title) – emotionally convicting and driven, illuminated by the era’s historical viewpoints and seasons of life; grounded by co-lead characters who pulsate a knowing vibe of how to tell their stories by connecting directly to the reader’s emphatic heart.

You hungrily soak up the dialogue and the the narrative – where Mackin slowly reveals bits about her character’s interior lives and how their internal selves sometimes are reflective of their exterior masks. In some ways, her characters are each wearing a mask hiding themselves to the world whilst not quite owning up to who they are even to themselves in quiet hours where no one else is around. This is a layered novel of complexity and the tides of where life can take you whilst your unmoored and drifting on intuition and instincts. Sometimes even on the larkspur hope that where you land, you’ll land on your feet even if the net was pulled out from under you.

You’re eager to see what each page will draw out next,… will it be insight into how Lee moved past the horror of her childhood and embraced the public eye? Putting herself in the vulnerable position of being stage center throughout her professional life without a protective shield to anchour her restlessness about how she wanted her life to be lived? Will you find Nora revealling more of her tender-hearted moments with Jaime (her young love) and determined independence that faltered a bit in the details of a plan to become self-sufficient?

Mackin pulls you into this novel by such a clarity of conviction for her subject and her novel’s density of words which by themselves are transports in time; they encourage your mind to envision what is happening and it’s a treat to the imagination to see what Mackin is placing in front of us to feel, sense, and experience. It’s not a novel you want to read in multiple sittings (even though I did) nor is it one that soon leaves you – it’s one of those remembered unputdownable reads that leaves a murmuring of contented bliss.

On the 1930s in Paris:

I’ve been caught up in Paris and France for a good portion of the past two years I’ve been a book blogger – as I used to regularly host blog tours and authors via France Book Tours. I took a bit of a break, as forementioned exchanging France for Britain, as my original passion is that of an Anglophile’s heart-stitching’s across the Channel. Not only of France and Paris, but if you’ve been a regular reader of Jorie Loves A Story, you’ve seen parfum and the scents of fragrances explored on my blog in due course. Each story I’ve found that centers itself around the history of parfum makes me smile quite giddily as I developed my own ‘nose’ for scents at a young age.

I used to visit the counters at the department stores, sorting through the new releases and the traditional core of where parfum and cologne originated. My ‘nose’ noodled out the synthetics after awhile, finding that I wanted to seek out a more natural concoction to the conventional trade of parfum, however, I have a interesting past with Chanel No. 5 which I revealled on my review of Gortner’s Mademoiselle Chanel. Further still, if you visit my review of the forementioned Scent of Triumph or even M.J. Rose’s The Witch of Painted Sorrows you’ll uncover more of what I’ve shared. The one novel I read within the scheme of #biohistfic I did not share in a full-on review was Therese Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald as I felt too deeply connected to Zelda through that reading and decided not to blog about the experience.

Imagine my zeal in finding Nora having a natural inclination to being a ‘nose’ for fragrance and for the history of the scents – such an intriguing path I’ve taken through literature these past years – finding myself in France and on the fringes of perfum history! Paris and France in the 1930s (or even the 1920s rather in the Fitzgerald’s case!) was quite the lively scene – it wasn’t a society of today, it was broken down by class a bit differently, where writers and artists were a cast in of themselves and thus, direct outcasts to general society. It was a unique period of time of unconventionalism and self-discovery, where writers who are giving us stories such as The Beautiful American are allowing us to rewind time and step through that threshold once more.

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This blog tour is courtesy of: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

{ click-through to follow the tour & find more reader’s impressions! }

This review was delayed due to lightning storms which caused a variety of technical issues which left me offline for the greater portion of late August through mid September, which is why I had to re-schedule my review. I hosted an interview in conjunction with this review, a conversation in which I was quite grateful to have shared with Ms Mackin despite my tardiness!

The Beautiful American blog tour via HFVBTs

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments on behalf of this review. Especially if you read the novel or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who picked up the same novel to read on a blog tour.

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Beautiful American”, book synopsis, author photograph of Jeanne Mackin and the tour badge were all provided by HFVBTs (Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours) and used with permission. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. Comment Box banner created by Jorie in Canva. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2015.

I am a social reader | I tweet as I read:

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 29 September, 2015 by jorielov in 20th Century, Adulterous Affair, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Bookish Discussions, Clever Turns of Phrase, Fashion Industry, Father-Daughter Relationships, France, French Literature, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards, Lee Miller, Literary Fiction, Parfum Industry, Passionate Researcher, Photography, The World Wars, Trauma | Abuse & Recovery, War-time Romance, Women's Health, Women's Rights, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage, Writing Style & Voice




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