By: Juliet Blackwell
Publication Date: 9/6/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Key comes the story of a mysterious work of art and the woman inspired to uncover its history in the City of Light.
After surviving the accident that took her mother's life, Claire Broussard worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown. But these days she feels something lacking. Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful sculpture that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II.
At her grandmother's urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the centuries old mask-making atelier where the sculpture, known only as “L'inconnue”—or the Unknown Woman—was created. With the help of a passionate sculptor, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offer insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art.
As Claire uncovers the unknown woman's tragic fate, she begins to discover secrets—and a new love—of her own.
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A special thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Beautiful cover!
Juliet Blackwell returns following The Paris Key (2015) with LETTERS FROM PARIS — a sweeping historical family saga taking readers from Chicago to Louisiana to ultimately, Paris- to uncover secrets of the past.
Claire Broussard is ready to give up her life in Chicago when she receives a call regarding her sick grandmother. Claire (Chance) no longer felt like she was living the dream. She was not happy in Chicago. She wanted something else.
Her mother died when she was little and her Mammaw always said:
“The Lord’s got something special planned for you. You mark my words.”
Her Mammaw wasn’t just a grandmother. She had raised her and saved her life.
Claire heads to Louisiana. The place where she was called Chance. From her dying mother, and alcoholic father.
She discovers a mask (sculpture) in the attic, along with some old newspapers and receipts. Her grandmother tells her it is from Paris. Her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II. She encourages her to find out more about the story.
She is intrigued. After her grandmother dies, Claire decides why not, go to Paris. What does she have holding her to this place?
Claire discovers the shop which made the (death) mask, L’Inconnue de la Seine (the Unknown Woman). She begins working at the shop, in order to find out more about its history with some eccentric characters.
Drawn into the past and the mystery, there is the story of Sabine, a young model in Paris in the 1890s. How are these two women’s lives connected? The model for L’Inconnue lived decades before WWII. A poor girl from the countryside?
From tragedy and death to the romantic; the beauty of Paris from art, food, culture, history, and secrets to be discovered. Old wounds reflected and scars to be healed. Re-discovery.
Having survived drowning as a child, Claire is wary of rivers, while Sabine is rumored to have met her end in the Seine.
Per the author’s note, L’Inconnue is an actual mask of a young woman who lived during the nineteenth century. No one knows for sure whether the model was French, English, German, Russian, or otherwise.
To find out more about this intriguing story, and follow Claire’s journey in LETTERS FROM PARIS!
I also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Xe Sands for a captivating adventure.
Sept Top Book Picks
"Blackwell paints a picture of Paris that is both artistically romantic and realistically harsh....A compelling story of Paris, art, and love throughout history."
About the Author
Juliet Blackwell was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the youngest child of a jet pilot from New York and an editor from Texas. She graduated with a degree in Latin American Studies from University of California, Santa Cruz, and went on to earn Masters degrees in Anthropology and Social Work from the State University of New York, Albany.
While in graduate school she published several articles based on her research with immigrant families from Mexico and Viet Nam, as well as one full-length translation: Miguel León-Portilla's seminal work, Endangered Cultures. Juliet taught Medical Anthropology at SUNY-Albany, was producer for a BBC documentary about Vietnamese children left behind by US soldiers, and worked as an elementary school social worker in rural New York. Upon her return to California she became a professional artist and ran her own decorative painting, historical renovation, and domestic design studio for more than a decade.
In addition to mainstream novels, Juliet pens the New York Times Bestselling Witchcraft Mysteries and the Haunted Home Renovation series. As Hailey Lind she wrote the Agatha Award-nominated Art Lover's Mystery series. She is past president of Northern California Sisters in Crime and former board member of Mystery Writers of America.
Juliet lives in a hundred-year-old house with extensive botanical gardens in Northern California, but spends as much time as possible in Europe and Latin America. She believes in the magic of language, travel, and cultural exchange to open hearts, minds, and souls. Read More