The Paris Orphan
New York City/Paris, 1942: When American model Jessica May arrives in Europe to cover the war as a photojournalist for Vogue, most of the soldiers are determined to make her life as difficult as possible. But three friendships change that. Journalist Martha Gellhorn encourages Jess to bend the rules. Captain Dan Hallworth keeps her safe in dangerous places so she can capture the stories that truly matter. And most important of all, the love of a little orphan named Victorine gives Jess strength to do the impossible. But her success will come at a price...
France, 2005: Decades after World War II, D'Arcy Hallworth arrives at a beautiful chateau to curate a collection of famous wartime photos by a reclusive artist. It's the opportunity of a lifetime, but D'Arcy has no idea that this job will uncover decades of secrets that, once revealed, will change everything she thought she knew about her mother, Victorine, and alter D'Arcy's life forever.
Includes a reading group guide!
"An emotional and sweeping tale set against the backdrop of World War II...Rich detail, compelling characters, and an interwoven dual timeline make this an engrossing read for historical fiction fans." --Chanel Cleeton, USA Today bestselling author of Next Year in Havana
"[A] splendid, breathtaking novel, full of mystery and passion...a must read!" --Jeanne Mackin, author of The Last Collection
Praise For The Paris Orphan…
"Rich and riveting...Readers will become engrossed from the very first page as mystery and romance are expertly combined into one emotionally charged, unforgettable story."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"The Paris Orphan is another must-read WWII drama and one of the best books we've read in 2019."—Books for Her
"This is a splendid, breathtaking novel, full of mystery and passion. I didn't want to put it down, and when it finished, I wanted to start reading all over again. Natasha Lester has woven together the lives of two intriguing women from different eras who find they have much more in common than their bravery and talent. Skillfully told, this passionate tale reveals the best and worst of men, and women, dealing with the brutality of war, and one of the darker secrets of World War II. A must read!"—Jeanne Mackin, author of The Last Collection
intriguing story inspired by real-life female photojournalists during
WWII...Readers of historical fiction featuring courageous women will greatly
enjoy...the story of heroism."—Booklist
"The Paris Orphan was a magnificent story that captivated me from start to finish!"—The Genre Minx
"Natasha Lester's latest historical
novel is a drop-dead gorgeous winner!"—Literary Soiree
"The Paris Orphan is a compelling and poignant historical fiction... It took my breath away. It was well-written, detailed perfectly, and had fascinating character."—Living My Best Book Life
"Sweeping, heartbreaking, and incredibly moving, The Paris Orphan is an inspiring love story on multiple fronts."—The Rest is History
intense, intriguing, dramatic, emotional, and powerful novel."—Linda's Book Obsession
"Those who appreciate historical novels and female
leads who break out of the traditional mold will find this tale worth their
"Powerfully written."—The Historical NovelSociety
Forever, 9781538764893, 480pp.
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. One of the author’s concerns when writing the book was that the extent and magnitude of the bias and discrimination shown towards female war correspondents was so great that readers might not believe it could really have happened. Were you shocked by the any of the sexist behaviour, rules or beliefs described in the incidents in the book? Which incidents surprised you the most? How do you think it might affect a woman to have to struggle against such ingrained bias in order to do her job?
2. Had you heard of Lee Miller before you read the book? Have you been drawn to find out any more about Miller since reading it? What do you think of the author’s decision to create a character inspired by Miller rather than write a fictionalised account of Lee Miller’s life? Which approach do you think you might prefer as a reader?
3. Victorine makes a difficult decision towards the end of the novel when she withholds information from both Jess and Dan. What did you think of her decision? What might you have done in her place? Is it possible to make the wrong decision for the right reasons? How important is it to consider a person’s motivations when assessing whether their decision was right or wrong?
4. Both Jess and Dan make different decisions when it comes to Amelia’s ultimatum: Dan decides to marry Jess in spite of his battalion; Jess decides to leave Dan so that he has to marry Amelia. Who was the more heroic out of Jess and Dan over the course of the war, and in making that final decision? Which one of them made the “right” decision?
5. For much of the novel, Jess collects information about soldiers sexually assaulting civilian women. She doesn’t report on this until after the war. Do you think it was cowardly of her to wait so long? What do you think might have happened had she tried to publish the article while the war was still continuing? Was she guilty of letting other women down, or did she have no choice?
6. Back in London, Jess has the thought: “War makes us monsters or angels, but so too does love.” How difficult do you think it would be to fall in love during wartime, knowing that death was a very real possibility for one or both partners? Do you think this would change the kind of love a person might feel, make it more intense perhaps because risk is everywhere, or less intense because the fear of death creates a fear of true intimacy? How can love make someone a monster and where does this happen in the book?
7. The difficulties Jess and Dan and Amelia face during the war are very different to the difficulties D’Arcy and Josh have faced in their lives. Do you think people in contemporary times are guilty of creating problems where none exist? To what extent does living through a war change how a person views life? Are contemporary concerns less important than those people faced during the 1940s or are both sets of issues equally challenging and worthy of discussion?
8. There are many women in the book who are based on real people including Martha Gellhorn, Lee Carson, Iris Carpenter, and Catherine Coyne. Had you heard of any of these women before reading the book? Which ones? Is it true that the stories of so many extraordinary women have been lost to history, and forgotten by those of us who come after? If so, why do you think that is? What other books have you read, or movies have you watched, that feature extraordinary women from history and what did you enjoy about them?
Give Your Next Book Club Meeting a Taste of France
When D’Arcy arrives at the Chateau Lieu des Reves, she doesn’t shy away from indulging in the homemade pastries and food prepared for guests. Whether it’s that first dinner with Josh or the romantic picnic they share—there’s always something delicious on the menu in France.
To create your own decadent French picnic, Natasha Lester has some suggestions:
Tarte Tatin: an upside-down pastry with fruit (often apple) that is caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked.
French Baguette: a classic French loaf of bread characterized by its long, thin shape and crispy crust.
Paté: a paste, pie or loaf consisting of ground liver with a variety of other ground meat (pork, poultry, fish) combined with herbs, spices and either wine or brandy. A platter of different types of paté served with slices of baguette will allow guests to sample different tastes.
Cheese: like the paté, creating a platter with a few different flavors and textures of cheese makes for a nice tasting experience served with the baguette. Some popular French cheeses include Brie, Gruyere, Roquefort, and Chevre.
Chocolate Tarts: a type of custard tart with a mixture of dark chocolate, cream and eggs are poured into a sweet pastry shell and baked until firm.
Macarons: sweet pastries made with almond powder or ground almond, they come in a variety of flavors denoted by different colors and types of filling. Note that macarons are different from the macaroon, which is coconut based.
Palmiers: pastry in the shape of a palm leaf or heart. They are also known as French Hearts or Elephant Ear among other names.
Cherry Clafoutis: a type of tart consisting of a sweet custard batter mixed with ripe cherries and baked. While cherries are the traditional fruit used in this dish, other fruits can be substituted.
Champagne or wine is always a good choice to pair with any of these treats and plentiful around France. But if you’re looking for something a little bolder Natasha has shared her favorite recipe for a Manhattan.
2 oz. Whiskey 1 oz. sweet vermouth 2 dashes Angostura Bitters Serve with a twist of orange