Review: The Paris Seamstress
I received this ARC from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis | Goodreads
For readers of Lilac Girls and The Nightingale comes an internationally bestselling World War II novel that spans generations, crosses oceans, and proves just how much two young women are willing to sacrifice for love and family.
1940: As the Germans advance upon Paris, young seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee everything she’s ever known. She’s bound for New York City with her signature gold dress, a few francs, and a dream: to make her mark on the world of fashion.
Present day: Fabienne Bissette journeys to the Met’s annual gala for an exhibit featuring the work of her ailing grandmother – a legend of women’s fashion design. But as Fabienne begins to learn more about her beloved grandmother’s past, she uncovers a story of tragedy, heartbreak and family secrets that will dramatically change her own life.
My Rating: 5 Stars
It took me almost a week to read the first chapter of The Paris Seamstress. For some reason, it took me some time to get into the book but once I did, I found it hard to put this one down. Natasha Lester is a genius at weaving a story full angst, secrets, and such strong characters you can’t help but fall in love with them and root for them. The Paris Seamstress follows Estella and Fabienne and switches between 1940 and 2015. Estella’s timeline moves through the 40’s, while Fabienne’s stays in 2015.
Estella is a French seamstress refugee who flees to Manhattan at the insistence of her mother during World War II. Even though she is reluctant to go, she knows she must go to be safe and keep her mother safe. In New York, she meets a cutter named Sam and a model named Janie and they quickly becomes friends with both of them. Estella has dreams of having her own fashion line one day and making her mark on the fashion world but has to work as a copier in the meantime.
While in New York, she discovers some secrets from her pass that she could have never dreamed of and has to deal with the sense of betrayal she feels that her mother never told her and sift through it all to find out what really happened. Through it all she is still understandably worried about her mother in war-torn France.
Fabienne is the granddaughter of Estella. Her grandmother is ailing so she goes to an exhibit at the Met in New York that is honouring her grandmother’s fashion line, but she is dealing with her own grief. Fabienne found her father’s birth certificate which did not have Estella and Fabienne’s grandfather’s name on it so that starts Fabienne’s quest to find out what is going on. All the while Fabienne is struggling with self-doubt and fear as well as finding new love and friendships that threatened to rip her heart apart. That’s all I’m going to say because if I say anymore I’d be given away too much.
The juxtaposition of Fabienne and Estella’s points of view really brought this story alive. We get to see Estella living her life in Manhattan and all these secrets and events unfolding in her life while Fabienne is trying to discover more about her grandmother’s past and the mystery names on her father’s birth certificate. We do find out some truths and the answer to some mysteries from Fabienne’s parts which are further explained during Estella’s parts. This story was very character driven and so full of questions that you had no choice but to keep pushing through. Lester did an excellent job of withholding information for just long enough to intrigue the reader, but not too long as to annoy and frustrate them.
Estella was such a strong-willed woman who had a vision for how things should be. She had a spark—a fire about her that just seemed to draw people into her orbit and make them want to be friends with her or more. She was so outspoken that she lost multiple jobs in just the first few months of her being in New York. Those scenes were hilarious and it was nice to see a strong female who did not cower in the face of anyone. She also did not want to have success on the back of a man and was determined to do it her way.
Fabienne had strength in her own way, but she was as much of a force as Estella was. She was more reserved but once she figured out what it was she wanted in life she went for it much like Estella did. The minor characters were done just as well as the major characters. I felt as if I knew them just as well and was rooting for them. I cared what happened to Janie and Sam—Estella’s best friends and Alex and Lena. I cared about Melissa and Will who were Fabienne’s friends. The story was a complex mix of personalities that worked well together.
The Paris Seamstress was heartbreaking to read and I am still reeling from the experience but it was also inspiring and so beautifully written. This was such a well-researched historical fiction that weaved romance, intrigue, and human emotions to create a story that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. I highly recommend having a box of Kleenex near as you make your way through this masterpiece!
*This review is also featured on The Nerd Daily!