Title: Belle Epoque
Author: Elizabeth Ross
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Maude Pichon, a plain, impoverished girl in Belle Epoque Paris, is hired by Countess Dubern to make her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, look more beautiful by comparison but soon Maude is enmeshed in a tangle of love, friendship, and deception.
I started reading it because…I loved the picture of a rather plain girl on the cover and how it matched the book description I kept reading because… I’d never read anything about this time period in this place, and I liked the commentary on beauty vs. art within the storyline.
Gut Reaction: An unexpected thought-provoking hit with a realistic and flawed character. I loved the passages in French.
If the main character were stuck on a deserted island, she would… shake a tree, fell a coconut, crack it open, save the shell to catch water and dew, and weave herself a shelter. Then she’d sit on the beach, gaze at the sunset, and tell herself she was better off on the island than being married to the old butcher at home because at least this way she could appreciate beauty.
Six Word Review: Self-determinism trumps societal expectations and aesthetic.
This book reminded me of Midnight in Paris because… of Paris (!) and because both movie and book have themes underlying the storyline about who determines beauty (Belle Epoque) and what determines the “Golden Age” (Midnight in Paris). Strangely enough, in a way both works come to similar conclusions.
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