The Paris Seamstress Lib/E Audio CD – Unabridged, 18 September 2018
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- Publisher : Forever; Unabridged edition (18 September 2018)
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 1549146025
- ISBN-13 : 978-1549146022
- Dimensions : 17.02 x 2.54 x 15.49 cm
- Customer Reviews:
The Paris Seamstress is a gorgeously rich and romantic novel about young women finding their way in the world.-- "Kate Forsyth, author of Bitter Greens"
About the Author
Natasha Lester worked as a marketing executive for cosmetic company L'Oreal, managing the Maybelline brand, before returning to university to study creative writing. She completed a master of creative arts as well as her first novel, What Is Left Over, After, which won the TAG Hungerford Award for Fiction. Her second novel, If I Should Lose You, was followed by A Kiss from Mr. Fitzgerald in 2016 and Her Mother's Secret in 2017.
Penelope Rawlins' voice work has encompassed many accents and ages in recording audiobooks, animation, computer games, English language tapes, and corporate commercials. Among her numerous audiobook narrations are The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory and Fox Friend by Michael Morpurgo. Her narration of Tom Rachman's The Rise and Fall of Great Powers earned her an AudioFile Earphones Award.
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Top reviews from Australia
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Eg : (Without revealing too much of the story)
The "Seamstress" and a gentleman fly from Paris to New York in a Seaplane (circa early 1940's) and stand together at a window looking out... for TWO HOURS !
The Seamstress has an order to make 1,000 or more outfits in a couple of weeks! OK..she does employ two other ladies to help! but I can sew and know that would be totally impossible. On old fashioned sewing machines for a start ...come on now!
Also the "Seamstress" had a favourite exotic gold dress that she whipped out of her handbag at the oddest times ...how do you even fit any dress into a handbag and always have it on hand?? It was wartime as well. If Natasha Lester's editor had gone through this book with a big red pen....then it would have been a good read.
I did not think the denouement in The Paris Seamstress (which was very similar in concept to the outcome/twist in Paris Time Capsule) worked as well as it did in Carey’s novel for reasons which I will explain further without giving away the story, and I had trouble warming to the protagonists in The Paris Seamstress- to Fabienne and her grandmother, Estella. I also found some aspects of The Paris Seamstress a little off.
In The Paris Seamstress, Lester's contemporary character Fabienne, in the same way as Carey's Cat in Paris Time Capsule, sets out to find out the truth behind her grandmother's life in Paris (Lester’s 1940’s character is Estelle, the grandmother in Carey’s novel is Virginia) before Estelle, like Virginia, fled the city on the eve of the Nazi occupation in June 1940. While doing so, like Carey's Cat, Fabienne uncovers hidden secrets and surprises about her ancestry.
The Paris Seamstress, like Carey’s novels The House by the Lake and From a Paris Balcony, is a dual narrative, with Fabienne's story set in 2015, and Estelle's story set during the Second World War. Like Sarah in Carey’s From a Paris Balcony, Fabienne works as an art curator.
In The Paris Seamstress, Estelle, like Virginia in Paris Time Capsule, is an independent and iconic character in the family who fled Paris in 1940 and then worked in the garment district in New York, as did Carey's Virginia.
Before Lester’s Estelle left Paris in 1940, she worked as a midinette, while making a second income copying- or stealing, really- the ideas from major French designers such as Chanel, sitting and sketching models’ outfits on the runway at Paris fashion shows in order to send her sketches off to New York to be copied, or to be made up and sold in Paris. However, Estelle has aspirations to design her own independent clothing line one day.
In 2015, Fabienne also ultimately works toward designing her own creations, rather than curating other’s work as part of her job. In the same way, Carey’s Cat works at a photography studio in New York, while ultimately she yearns to set up her own photography studio. But both Fabienne and Cat need to go through a certain journey to feel the confidence to do set up on their own as creatives.
Like Carey’s Cat, Fabienne is intrigued to discover that her grandmother inherited an abandoned apartment in Paris and she wants to find out why- like Cat, as Fabienne digs deeper into the past, she discovers similar twists to Carey's Cat surrounding her ancestors’ lives both before and during the Second World War. Fabienne and Cat both discover a relative/character who grew up in a nunnery in France, a parent who grew up unaware of their real parentage. Fabienne uncovers Evelyn Nesbit, a showgirl great-great grandmother. Cat discovers courtesan and dancer Marthe de Florian in Paris Time Capsule.
Ultimately, it is personal letters left from the past for descendants, that help both Fabienne and Cat learn the truth about their grandmother’s lives and the secrets surrounding their ancestry.
Fabienne, like Cat, meets a handsome stranger, Will, while travelling, and in Paris Fabienne falls in love with him as Cat does with her handsome stranger, Loic. Like Carey’s Cat, Fabienne becomes conflicted as to whether she should be with Will, or choose to make a life with her boyfriend at home- Carey’s Christian, and Lester’s Jasper are both boyfriends back home who are determinedly focused on career and work, while Carey’s Loic and Lester’s Will share the same outlook on life and both protagonists must choose as to whether they are going to make a shift in their outlooks that will ultimately lead them to a new way of living, creating and loving in the way they ultimately want to do- or not.
Fabienne’s inner journey and the love story between she and Will follows much of the same story arc as Carey's Cat’s did with Loic.
Fabienne, like Carey's Cat, works toward an exhibition back at home- Cat’s is of her photographs, Fabienne’s of fashion. Lester adds in some embellishments- we meet the character of Will's sister, Melissa.
In the 1940’s narrative, Lester, like Carey, also writes a second, tragic love story set during the war, which ends in the same way as Carey’s, with a character dying as happens in Carey’s book, due to similar reasons as in Paris Time Capsule, during the war, but I will not give away who that character is. In The Paris Seamstress, we see a female character’s - a mother’s and parallel character's- determined and brave involvement in the French resistance, as happens in Paris Time Capsule.
Lester adds the character, Harry Thaw to her 1940’s narrative, a sadistic rapist who appears at random points in the 1940’s story. Lester also populates her 1940’s story with a friend for Estelle, which is similar to the friendship between Carey's Isabelle de Florian and Virginia in Paris Time Capsule, and in The House by the Lake.
I found the twist at the end of The Paris Seamstress far fetched, rather off, to be honest, and melodramatic. While it, in many ways, followed along the same lines as Carey’s twist in Paris Time Capsule, it didn’t work for me in the way Carey’s did. It lacked the surprise that I had in reading Paris Time Capsule, and I didn’t find it as original or fresh.
The cover design of Lester’s US edition of The Paris Seamstress is strikingly similar to Carey’s US Paris Time Capsule cover. The font, the concept and the photograph on the front are almost the same with the Eiffel Tower and the two characters in front of it.
While Lester has clearly done her research- her descriptions of garments, the fashion industry and Paris in the 1940’s are most certainly in depth, I didn’t ultimately find The Paris Seamstress a satisfying read on any level. I felt it lacked something, and for me, what it lacked, which Carey’s original novels, did have in my opinion, was heart.
If you want a light summer holiday read this might satisfy but it just didn’t work for me.
Top reviews from other countries
Tougher going than HMS, there were moments when I had to put the book to one side to take stock - but I find I have to do that with a lot of books set in WW2 - but just as exquisitely written, The Paris Seamstress sweeps the reader along from Paris to New York to Sydney and from the 1940s to the present day with intrigue, heartbreak and, ultimately not one, but two heartstopping love stories.
I cannot tell you how much I loved this book and I cannot cannot recommend it enough. Please write faster Natasha!!
It was an intricately woven book, fabulous in its concept. With the Kindle, I was able to make notes as I went along and when I re-read it sometime in the future, perhaps I'll enjoy even more the second time around.
At first I was completely absorbed in Estella's story and when the story jumped ahead 70 years to Fabienne I was really unhappy as all I really wanted to do was read about Estella and find out just how she had an American father, allowing her to escape ahead of the invasion. I soon got past that as Fabienne sucked me in to.
What I particularly liked about this book was the humanness of all the characters. Even though the Wehrmacht were terrifying to Estella she never depersonalised them, although there is (fortunately) little of them in the book you always got the sense that they were people first and foremost and war machines second. In fact, that is true of all the people in the book - nobody is there just to provide one example of human nature, even the horrendous Harry Thaw is more than just his sadism.
I would have liked to learn more about Janie and Sam through the book. They are constants in Estella's life and clearly her only support network for much of her life in America and yet we see so little of them. At least she has friends and people to rely on, by contrast her granddaughter, Fabienne, does appear to be truly alone in the world. Although, I can fully understand why, although I enjoyed her story I never really warmed to Fabienne. She comes across as very high maintenance (emotionally speaking) and you can see how this would push people away.
Historically there are some liberties taken with events but the depiction of a Paris under occupation is completely heartbreaking. The way it deals with the choices people made was very well done and I like that Estella, whilst denigrating the collaborators, also accepts that for some women this was their only way to survive or for their children to survive. Nice to see the women who made this choice not be made out to be less than human as they so often are.
Plot wise the story is well constructed and has a good narrative flow, once you get used to the way we move from Estella to Fabienne and back again. The only thing that bothered me (and caused me to dock half a star) was that the time shifts became entirely predictable and always left either character on a cliffhanger. The little fashion details scattered throughout were little gems (or maybe gold silk roses), although it did remind me of Shirley Conran's Lace in the descriptions of Estella's desires for Stella Designs to provide affordable clothing that was suited to a more modern life.
A wonderful tale that does lead you to want to research the Occupation of France and the Resistance. It also reminds you that Dior's New Look would look just as good today as it did then.