Title: The Paris Model
Author: Alexandra Joel
Published: January 20th 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4.5 stars
Sometimes you have to lose everything to find yourself … A stunning novel of love, betrayal and family secrets for all fans of Fiona McIntosh and Natasha Lester.
After a shocking discovery, Grace Woods leaves her vast Australian sheep station and travels to tumultuous post-war Paris in order to find her true identity.
While working as a mannequin for Christian Dior, the world’s newly acclaimed emperor of fashion, Grace mixes with counts and princesses, authors and artists, diplomats and politicians.
But when Grace falls for handsome Philippe Boyer she doesn’t know that he is leading a double life, nor that his past might inflict devastating consequences upon her. As she is drawn into Philippe’s dangerous world of international espionage, Grace discovers both the shattering truth of her origins – and that her life is in peril.
Inspired by an astonishing true story, The Paris Model is a tale of glamour, family secrets and heartbreak that takes you from the rolling plains of country Australia to the elegant salons of Paris.
‘It might have been simple good luck, sheer coincidence, or as she preferred to think of it, fate, but the truth was that without ever knowing it, she had spent years preparing to discover her past – and forge a new future – in the City of Light.’
Former editor of the Australian edition of Harper’s Bazaar, Alexandra Joel, crosses into new book territory with the release of her first historical fiction novel, The Paris Model. Joel’s first venture into the field of historical fiction represents a compelling tale of desire, fulfilment, passion, change, high fashion, espionage, love and parentage. The Paris Model entertains from line one to the closing word, thanks to Alexandra Joel’s seducing prose.
The Paris Model introduces Grace Woods, a young Australian woman who seals her destiny in post war Paris, following the collapse of her marriage. Grace leaves her sprawling sheep station home in Australia, for the bright lights and frivolity of Paris. Grace is fortunate in acquiring a lucrative position as a mannequin for fashion extraordinaire Christian Dior. Grace walks the catwalks of Paris, which allows her to rub shoulders with the elite. From famous screen stars, to royalty and key political figures, Grace is acquainted with many during her career as a model. She is also thrust into the arms of the dashing Philippe, an enigma, who Grace later discovers has a secret life. When Philippe lets Grace into his dangerous world, she is swept up in a life of double jeopardy, intrigue and above all, danger. Then a shock discovery about her origins throws all sorts of complications Grace’s way. The Paris Model is a story drawn from real life experiences, providing the audience with a glimpse into the world of sophistication, fashion, long held secrets and devastating loss.
As a self-confessed Francophile, with an interest in fashion and the arts, I knew this book was for me. With my favorite genre being historical fiction, I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in the pages of this novel and although it took a little more time than usual for me to settle into this one, by the end I didn’t want to say goodbye to The Paris Model.
I loved how The Paris Model began its full journey in the familiar locale of outback NSW. Grace immediately came across vividly through the pages of this book. I first took Grace to be quite sweet and wholesome. Then, I began to realise there was much more depth to Grace and that she was deeply unsatisfied with her life. Grace also has an air of mystery surrounding her origins, which is slowly unpacked as the book progresses. Joel extends her strong characterisation to the supporting protagonists of The Paris Model. From Grace’s husband Jack, through to her love interest Philippe, and the friends she meets during her Parisian sojourn, I felt they were all presented with clarity. I also lapped up the references to the real life personalities that appear in the story – from Christian Dior, Pablo Picasso, Julia Child, Rita Hayworth, Prince Aly Khan and Jacqueline Bouvier, among others. Each of these figures provides a strong sense of celebrity and glamour to this showpiece novel.
An unexpected dash of espionage rounds this novel off nicely. When I first went into The Paris Model I mistakenly thought it was just a story of fashion. However, when the character of Philippe enters the book, the novel takes a different turn. It is full of twists, turns, danger, swift decision making and intrigue, which really pushed the pace up a notch. In addition, Joel provides a comprehensive glimpse into the relations and mood of the time, both in Australia, France and Europe in general. We are given an insight into the political climate and social relations, which I found enlightening.
As well as a historical adventure novel, The Paris Model is a tale of romance. Within the course of the story we witness a failed marriage and broken relationship from Grace’s experiences marrying her childhood sweetheart. When Philippe enters her life, Grace experiences a different kind of love and passion. However, their union is marred by Philippe’s position and another complication. I liked how Joel explored this aspect of her novel and the resulting hopeful outcome. Finally, The Paris Model is also a story of family, the search for true parentage, belonging and your roots. It is a heartbreaking process, but well worth your time to commit to this story.
For me personally, I loved the fashion, art, culture and period references of The Paris Model. I always love saying goodbye to present day life and surrendering myself to times past. I took great value in the experiences I gained from The Paris Model and I hope to reconnect with Alexandra’s Joel’s impressive prose again in the near future.
The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel was published on 20th January 2020 by Harper Collins Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Paris Model, Alexandra Joel, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Harper Collins Books Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Paris Model is book #12 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge
I am offering 1 lucky reader an opportunity to win a copy of The Paris Model, by Alexandra Joel. Simply leave a comment below on this post on the name of a model to be entered into this great competition! Good luck!
*Competition open to Australian postal addresses only. Closes Tuesday 18th February 2020, 11pm (WST).