The Paris Orphan

Forever: Grand Central. Sept. 2019. 480p. ISBN 9781538764893. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781538764909. F
In 1942, model-turned-photojournalist Jessica May travels to the European theater of war and finds excitement, grief, wisdom, pain, and, perhaps most surprisingly, love. Victorine is a young orphan living in a field hospital in Italy who has quickly charmed the nurses and soldiers stationed there, including Jessica and the kind Captain Dan. Decades later, in 2005, D’Arcy, Victorine’s daughter, is brought to France to process a collection of photographs taken by a mysterious artist with a connection to Victorine. Lester (The Paris Seamstress) weaves a story centered on her characters’ choices and how the effects of their decisions trickle down in unexpected ways. The novel is wrapped, somewhat too conveniently, around real historical events and figures—one peculiar scene has a character using Hitler’s bathtub. The dialog among the characters, particularly when Jessica is speaking to the soldiers and nurses she meets, doesn’t always feel natural, but the plot is strong enough to keep readers engaged. In D’Arcy and Jessica, Lester has created relatable characters who are dealing with shocking and difficult circumstances all while trying to navigate the complicated paths their lives are taking.
VERDICT Those who appreciate historical novels and female leads who break out of the traditional mold will find this tale worth their time.

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