By: Juliet Blackwell
Published Year: 2016
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.
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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): 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.
The title made me a little wary as I’ve has some bad experiences with Paris books in the past, but the cover was so pretty I knew I had to give it a chance. I read the summary and while I wasn’t immediately drawn in, in combination with the cover I was convinced to give this book a try.
What I thought
I am so glad my first impressions were wrong! Finally a book set in Paris that I thoroughly enjoyed!
Claire grew up in a Parish in Louisiana and escaped to Chicago for college. She has been living there for years only keeping vague contact with her Mammaw who raised her. When she finds out her Mammaw is sick, she heads back to the Parish. While there, she discovers a mask that she talked to when she was a small child and feeling lonely. Combined with a mysterious word of encouragement from her Mammaw on her deathbed, Claire heads to Pairs to discover more about the mask and where it came from in hopes of also finding herself. The story alternates chapters with historical chapters from the late 1800s following a young French girl who just moved from the countryside to the big city.
I definitely preferred the present day chapters to the past ones, but I think that’s because I was very interested in Claire’s chapters and stories. I found her past fascinating and was curious to see what she was going to find out about the mask and that history.
Claire’s backstory wasn’t completely unique, but had some twists to it that made it its own. I loved that she came from a Parish in Louisiana and therefore spoke Creole, so she was able to communicate with the French in Paris. I had never read a story about a character from Louisiana before, so that definitely piqued my interest. I also appreciated that her past played enough of a part that you could tell it was what fueled her, but it didn’t come up every other paragraph in Paris.
As expected with a story that takes place in Paris, there is a little bit of a love story. I don’t think this was a strong part, but it was a fun part. The relationship happened a bit quick for my tastes, but I liked that there was a bit of slower growth. I think that the ending occurred a bit quickly as well. Everything seemed to wrap up within the final 20 pages and considering the rest of the book was a slow burn, I wish it had moved a bit slower.
While I didn’t find myself looking forward to the historical chapters (because I wanted to read Claire’s perspective instead), I loved the historical aspect of the book. It is a historical fiction without being heavy or hard to read. I know that the history of the mask is complete fiction written by Blackwell, but I wish it was true!
By: Juliet Blackwell