The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel (Harper Perennial)
September 20, 2020
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
It always comes back to Paris. I'm not going to lie. It is truly one of my favorite cities and I often catch myself daydreaming of going back there one day. Cappuccino scented cafes and cobblestone streets were the backdrop for so many stories, so many glorious works of art in the1920s. A time when an artistic vibe pulsed through the veins of all the young dreamers. You and your “Lost Generation” were some of those dreamers during Paris’ sweet time, between the Wars. The Wars of course casted a dark cloud over the City of Lights for many years. It wasn’t until the late 1940s, when legendary French fashion designer, Christian Dior designed a new line of women clothing that put the dazzle back into post war stricken Paris. Alexandra Joel takes on this time in history in her debut novel, The Paris Model. A strong woman discovering her family secrets, passionate affairs and some always needed Parisian flair fill the pages of this historical fiction delight. Plan on falling in love with this gem. Let’s take a look.
In 1948, Grace Woods leaves Australia and farm life, hits pause on her loveless marriage and travels to post-war Paris to work as a glamorous mannequin for THE Christian Dior. Her journey to a new country isn’t all work though. Grace is taking time to re-evaluate her role as a “dutiful” wife, with dutiful roles in the kitchen and her passionless bedroom. As she enjoys her time modeling the clothes of a fashion guru and discovering that fiery love most definitely exists, she gets herself tangled in her lover’s political endeavors, while discovering the depth of her family’s secrets.
What I loved about Joel’s book is that it is based on a true story. She did a fantastic job depicting a woman “stuck” in her role as a wife and desperately questioning her own hopes and dreams, while taking on the politically charged streets of Paris Because of this book, I have been feverishly googling the life and times of Christian Dior. From his abundant use of luscious fabric, to the revival of fashion in the most glamorous city in the world, this French gentleman was anything but ordinary. I adored all of the modeling and designer clothes in Joel’s novel, but especially loved the family component. Grace’s self-discovery was a journey that I took pleasure in as a reader. Layers of love, loss and sacrifice filled the pages of Joel's book. I was extremely fulfilled with the ending as so many questions were answered and loose ends tied up. That always makes me happy.
I hope you enjoy this exquisite read as much as I did!
Until next time my friend!
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. Catherine, Christian Dior’s sister, worked for the French Resistance during WWII. She was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbruck, a concentration camp for women until her liberation in 1945. In 1947, Dior named his first perfume Miss Dior, in honor of her.