Release date: June 3, 2014
at New American Library/Penguin
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
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
I sat carefully on a settee, self-conscious about the run in my stocking and wishing Lee had not sprung this event as a surprise. For someone like Olga Picasso, now sitting ramrod straight in a Louis Quinze chair, one should at least comb one’s hair, refresh one’s lipstick. I felt like a child at a grown-ups’ party.
In one corner, an electric train had been set up for the little boy, Paulo and several times I caught Olga giving that messy train set the kind of look a hostess gives a stray dog that wanders into a formal garden. She did not want it there. I decided I would spend the evening playing with Paulo and his train.
Picasso stood smiling in the middle of this battle of wills, perfectly at ease, the sun around which everyone else in the room revolved. (Lee explained later that his real studio, his working studio, was upstairs in a different part of the building, and no one, absolutely no one, not even Olga, was allowed into it. No one except his mistress, Marie-Thérèse, that was.)
Lee sat on a settee opposite Olga, and Man sat next to her, so close their elbows rubbed.
“Lee,” Picasso said, “are you still wasting your time with those fashion photographers?” He tugged at his long, straight forelock and smoothed it back, a gesture he repeated frequently that evening. It was gesture I had seen in other men, usually those proud of their thick hair, an emblem of youth, but in Picasso the gesture was so exaggerated it seemed more a ritual, a superstition, than simple vanity.
“Fashion pays the bills,” Lee said. “Cheers.” She drained her glass and held it out for a refill.
“My portraits pay the bills,” Man said darkly.
“And you, young man, are the new assistant?” Picasso turned to Jamie. “Man doesn’t usually take male assistants, only young girls.”
“He did it as a favor to me,” Lee said, finishing her second cocktail. “I thought it would be fun to have a young man around.” She turned ashen, realizing what she had just said, and that it could not be taken back. So she went forward. “Besides, he’s taller,” she said, slipping her arm through Man’s. “Finally, I can make you jealous.” And that was the perfect ploy. His ego was flattered. His mistress longed for his jealousy.
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.
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