All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel

on March 4, 2020

The Paris Model 
Alexandra Joel
Harper Collins AUS
2020, 338p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

After a shocking discovery, Grace Woods leaves her vast Australian sheep station and travels to tumultuous post-war Paris in order to find her true identity.

While working as a mannequin for Christian Dior, the world’s newly acclaimed emperor of fashion, Grace mixes with counts and princesses, authors and artists, diplomats and politicians.

But when Grace falls for handsome Philippe Boyer she doesn’t know that he is leading a double life, nor that his past might inflict devastating consequences upon her. As she is drawn into Philippe’s dangerous world of international espionage, Grace discovers both the shattering truth of her origins – and that her life is in peril.

Inspired by an astonishing true story, The Paris Model is a tale of glamour, family secrets and heartbreak that takes you from the rolling plains of country Australia to the elegant salons of Paris.

Grace Woods has grown up in a life of wealth and privilege on a sheep station in NSW. Doted on by her parents, she spends her days working the farm with her father but her mother is determined to also turn her into the perfect country society wife, one who always dresses impeccably, can ice a cake and runs her household like clockwork. This side of things is less than interesting to Grace though, who’d much rather be out on the farm. Despite her lack of interest in most things domestic, Grace does enjoy fashion and loves reading her mother’s overseas editions of Vogue when they arrive.

This comes in handy because after a failed marriage, Grace takes an opportunity to go to post-war Paris and work as a model/mannequin for Christian Dior, her tall and slim figure perfect for what they require to both cut and drape as well as model the clothes for perspective customers. Grace is slowly teased out of her lodgings by her fellow mannequins and learns to embrace life in Paris, the artists and interesting people that have congregated there now that the war is over. Despite swearing not to become involved again after the disappointment of her marriage, she meets the handsome and mysterious Philippe and can’t help but be drawn into his tangled life.

Feels like there’s a little something for everyone in this book! History buffs will enjoy not just the look at life in WWII Australia on a successful sheep station but also the story of post-war Paris and the dangers that still lurk. Those into fashion will surely appreciate the look inside one of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses and how Christian Dior was inspired by the New World in his collections. Grace’s job is unusual, something that’s difficult to imagine these days, and I have to admit that although I love red carpet fashions for big events as much as the next person, I know next to nothing about what goes into creating such amazing gowns. Some of the ones described here sound truly stunning (they’re probably real gowns that google might help out with) and there’s a fun little cameo from an American studying in Paris that Grace befriends named Jackie Bouvier. If you like romance, there’s the dashing Philippe with his politics that seems to help Grace loosen up and the latter part of the book also has a strong espionage plot that ramps up the pace and tension considerably.

Despite all of this, I did at times, find myself wanting more from the story. Grace fails to put together some incredibly easy clues and then flees after hearing part of the story but not sticking around to give someone time to actually tell her the truth. She heads to the other side of the world, bitter and hurt in two ways after becoming engaged to her childhood sweetheart, waiting through the war and then going through with the marriage only to discover he’s of course, not the boy she knew before he enlisted. Although I did admire Grace for doing something that probably wasn’t common in those days, and leaving him to gain her independence and satisfy her desire for travel and adventure, I often felt that parts of the narrative were unnecessary and/or overly convenient, such as the way “Siddy” returns to her life. What were the odds, hey?! Also the farewell with Jack just added a few pages of unnecessary drama so that Grace could yet again flee the consequences without actually taking the time to sit and talk through the issues with those that were relevant. Conveniently again, a part of this story is dispatched with and an offhand comment allows Grace some closure over something that has been troubling her.

There’s a lot about this that’s enjoyable and entertaining – it’s the kind of read that passes an afternoon very pleasurably but there were times when I just wished it’d dig a little deeper into things or not rely so much on things just happening in ways that didn’t feel at all believable. Everyone feels quite wealthy and privileged, the ravages of war didn’t touch Grace other than how her marriage was affected by it but even that felt like a decision Grace didn’t have the guts to make when she should have. Even when it seems like Grace is experiencing difficulties, everything sort of works out or there are solutions immediately and she suffers little to no real trouble. But if you’re a fan of fashion and Paris or you want something that just provides you with a story that has a lot of variety, this would probably do nicely.


Book #35 of 2020

The Paris Model is book #15 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020

One response to “Review: The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel

  1. Marg says:

    I do like the sound of this one because….Paris! But I am not really a fashionista so maybe maybe not.

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