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Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

Title: The Paris Seamstress
Author: Natasha Lester
Publisher: 27 March 2018 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 448 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women's fiction, contemporary, historical fiction
My Rating: 5 crowns

1940. Parisian seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee France as the Germans advance. She is bound for Manhattan with a few francs, one suitcase, her sewing machine and a dream: to have her own atelier.
2015. Australian curator Fabienne Bissette journeys to the annual Met Gala for an exhibition of her beloved grandmother's work - one of the world's leading designers of ready-to-wear. But as Fabienne learns more about her grandmother's past, she uncovers a story of tragedy, heartbreak and secrets - and the sacrifices made for love.
Crossing generations, society's boundaries and international turmoil, THE PARIS SEAMSTRESS is the beguiling, transporting story of the special relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter as they attempt to heal the heartache of the past.
My Thoughts

‘Be brave. Love well and fiercely. Be the woman I always knew you would be.’

The final page has been turned, the cover closed and I wipe a tear from my eye ... *deep sigh* ... this is without a doubt, one of the best books I have ever read. If historical fiction is close to your heart (even if it’s not, as Natasha tackles dual narratives for the first time) you will be hard placed to find a more heart wrenching tale than this. For this is, in my opinion, Natasha’s best book yet. With her first book, ‘A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald’ making a remarkable debut, her follow up, ‘Her Mother’s Secret’, cemented Natasha at the forefront of historical fiction with meticulous research, endearing characters and mesmerising  mysteries. If I gave these previous two novels five stars how on earth am I to rate this one as it is off the richter scale!  I don’t think I have ever read a book that has touched me so deeply, so profoundly and felt such an array of emotions.

‘His pillow carried the scent of him and as she rested her cheek against it, she knew that if what she felt wasn’t love, then love must be so acute it couldn’t be survived. Because what she felt right now was agony.’

Based on fact (some of the characters existed, as do the buildings some of which are central to the story and can be viewed on Natasha’s blog) I feel at a loss to voice my thoughts ... I don't think I have ever read a book so profound and which made me feel so much. Writing one compelling narrative is commendable, writing two within the one book is rare indeed. The fact that both stories held so much depth is a credit to the author. The changeovers were seamless and I found myself whispering a shocked, ‘No!’ at the conclusion of many a switch in timelines. It just all came together so well, which each section complimenting the other.

‘... she would not help Alex and Lena tear away the fabric of the stories she and Lena had been told because that would leave her naked and with nothing.’

This is one rollercoaster ride. Natasha writes of strong women and here you have not one but two - grandmother and granddaughter - who through their personal journey, experience the many highs and lows, love and  heartache and will have you literally gasping for breath. I willing admit there are plot twists that shocked me and my eyes welled up as events played out on the pages before me. Never before have I been so emotionally invested in such an array of characters (primary and secondary) in both timelines - once again a testament to Natasha’s writing.

“...if the government had known the city would be bombed, then why hadn’t they taken the people, wrapped them in sheets, and saved them instead of panes of lifeless glass.’

Do yourself a favour, escape to Paris with Estella in war torn France, then start putting all the pieces together with Fabienne in present day New York. I challenge you not to be shocked as secrets are revealed at just the right points throughout the story, or feel triumphant when your heartfelt hopes are realised. This is historical fiction, indeed storytelling, at its finest. I simply cannot wait to see what Natasha will come up with next.

‘But it seems wrong that we leave it all to a few people like you to take on the burdens that the rest of us are unable to face. Thank you.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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