Review: The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron

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Paris, 1939. Maison Chanel has closed, thrusting haute couture dressmaker Lila de Laurent out of the world of high fashion as Nazi soldiers invade the streets and the City of Lights slips into darkness. Lila’s life is now a series of rations, brutal restrictions, and carefully controlled propaganda while Paris is cut off from the rest of the world. Yet in hidden corners of the city, the faithful pledge to resist. Lila is drawn to La Resistance and is soon using her skills as a dressmaker to infiltrate the Nazi elite. She takes their measurements and designs masterpieces, all while collecting secrets in the glamorous Hôtel Ritz—the heart of the Nazis’ Parisian headquarters. But when dashing René Touliard suddenly reenters her world, Lila finds her heart tangled between determination to help save his Jewish family and bolstering the fight for liberation.

Paris, 1943. Sandrine Paquet’s job is to catalog the priceless works of art bound for the Führer’s Berlin, masterpieces stolen from prominent Jewish families. But behind closed doors, she secretly forages for information from the underground resistance. Beneath her compliant façade lies a woman bent on uncovering the fate of her missing husband . . . but at what cost? As Hitler’s regime crumbles, Sandrine is drawn in deeper when she uncrates an exquisite blush Chanel gown concealing a cryptic message that may reveal the fate of a dressmaker who vanished from within the fashion elite.

Told across the span of the Nazi occupation, The Paris Dressmaker highlights the brave women who used everything in their power to resist darkness and restore light to their world.

Source: NetGalley, Thomas Nelson, and Purchase Rating: 5 stars

The Bottom Line:  Kristy Cambron comes out swinging yet again with another brilliantly conceived historical fiction.  The Paris Dressmaker follows the lives of two women, Lila de Laurent and Sandrine Paquet as they struggle in Nazi-controlled Paris to keep their lives, keep their secrets, and keep those they love from paying for their choices.  While Lila uses her skills born of the fashion industry to infiltrate the lives of high-ranking Nazis via their paramours, Sandrine uses her skills in the art world to help catalogue all that has been stolen from Jews across Europe.  Through an intricate network of spies and resistance workers, the women work tirelessly to achieve their goals and thwart the Third Reich.  I found this book to be endlessly fascinating!  Cambron has a unique ability to bring her characters fully to life, to enliven them through their actions and words, and make them as real in print as if they were standing before you telling their own story.  While I greatly enjoyed the entirety of the book, I found the last third-ish to be the most entertaining.  As Lila and Sandrine’s lives begin to cross and the end of the war is upon them, the pace of the writing picks up dramatically and really brings home the sense of relief that so must surely have felt during this period.,  What’s more, the final chapters of the book are an incredible sort of epilogue that I found most informative, heartbreaking, and heartwarming.  Cambron evokes the emotion of the time and place without creating a sense of morbidity or false happiness.  The moments, the people, the plot are real and this is always going to be my kind of historical fiction.

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