Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

Title:  The Paris Seamstress
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Forever (September 18, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1538714779
ISBN-13: 978-1538714775
Author's Website:  https://www.natashalester.com.au/
Notes:  I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

The year is 1940, and Paris is poised for invasion. Estella Bissette is a seamstress with aspirations of one day becoming a name brand designer. When she comes across her employer on the verge of death, he asks for her help and that one simple request will change the course of her life...

“Take these,” he whispered, passing Estella a small bundle, “to the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. Please. For Paris. Find l’engoulevent—the nightjar. You can trust him.”

When she tells her mother what happened she sends Estella packing and puts her on the last boat out of Paris to America. It appears Estella got herself caught in the middle of something dangerous, and secrets appear to be rampant in Paris. Estella's mother never told her that she, Estella, was born in America, but she has the papers to prove it. And Monsieur Aumont? He was part of a spy network that Estella has unknowingly gotten mixed up in.

Alone and in America, Estella's future is uncertain. Will she ever see her mother again? Will she ever find out where her roots lie? Will she ever feel safe again? Only time will tell...
This book is a standalone novel. It toggles between the past and the present, between a grandmother's point of view (Estella's) and granddaughter's (Fabienne's). The primary goal of each, in the end, is to discover who they are and where their roots lie. This journey brings up the question should a person's lineage ever be withheld from them?  Are there certain circumstances in which it may be for the best? Here's some food for thought, the mother of a friend of mine never knew who her father was. Her mother, my friend's grandmother, refused to tell her. At one point she was told he was a famous baseball player, and that she was the result of a one night stand or short lived relationship (I can't quite remember which) with him. Back then there were no DNA tests so it would have been hard to prove, so it was a plausible story. After my friend's mom got the baseball player to agree to be tested she found out he wasn't her father. This led to more questions. I kept racking my brain as to why someone would withhold the information. My thoughts went a little something like this.."What if he's someone no one would want for a father or in their family tree? What if he was married? What if her mother wasn't the result of a willing liaison? What if the truth would be worse than not knowing?" It truly does make one wonder, and that is what added a touch of mystery to the whole experience,

My first thought after finishing this novel was, "Wow." My mind was reeling from all there was to take in, and I found the story very thought provoking. This would make for a good book club read. It is not a book that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy after reading. It's a story filled with situations and people that will make you feel uneasy, shake your head, and perhaps question how things could have been handled differently. On the flip side, there are also characters that show you strength, perseverance, and give you hope. It shows we have the power, to some extent, over our own destiny. It shows how a seemingly innocent act can have dire consequences. It shows while the sins of our fathers can at times stain or taint us, they do not define us, and are not our own. We have the power to rise above them or let them bring us down. It shows us how until we've walked in another's shoes, we really can't judge them. We don't know what they've been through or why they act as they do. This novel also emphasizes how bad things happen to good people and how bad people sometimes don't get what they deserve. Unfortunately, life just isn't always fair. You have the power to determine how you respond to others, and how you will let their actions influence and shape you. It also illustrates how sometimes you have to be your own hero.

Some of my favorite quotes:
- "He always said it wasn't love if you wouldn't give up everything for the other. Otherwise it was just a flame, not worth the candle it was lit upon."

- "Loving can hurt spectacularly, but it can also heal."

- "Love is like toile," Estella said, "The pattern on which one's whole life is shaped. But nobody see the toile, or knows it ever existed. Nobody understands that, without it, nothing can be fashioned."

- "Young people are so arrogant about time. You seem to think there's an infinite amount, an excess, that age will never come for you. It will." 

- "The prospect of death changed everything, made all the ordinary rules of restraint and politeness fall away, made beautiful moments into precious keepsakes, made the future, once taken for granted, seem extraordinary."

- "Why don't you start dating again?" Estella asked suddenly.(...)
  "I'm married, remember," Janie said.
  "I mean dating your husband," Estella said, sitting back on her heels, removing the pins from her mouth and sticking them into the cushion on her wrist. "Fall in love with him. Make him fall in love with you. Go out. Seduce one another. Learn everything there is to know."

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. It was an intricate story with parallels and juxtapositions woven throughout that stirred many emotions. I liked how the backdrop of WWII which emphasized part of what was happening in the story. I enjoyed the clever use of sisters to show how the actions of one can shape and alter the lives of others--sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I also liked seeing how you can forge your own path, and come out of a bad situation being true to yourself while turning things around. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a FAN rating--the temperature in the room seems to have suddenly gone up a couple of degrees and a fan would be nice.  I definitely recommend this one just be warned there are some situations which are discussed that are violent to women.

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