Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Review: The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre

Title: The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre
Author: Natasha Lester

Publisher: 28th September 2022 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 432 pages

Genre: historical fiction, WWII

My Rating: 5 cups


A compelling and lavish novel from the NYT bestselling author about a young woman striving to forget her part in the war by building life anew as the publicist at the just-launching House of Dior in Paris

1943. After spearheading several successful advertising campaigns in New York, PR wizard Alix St Pierre comes to the attention of the US hgovernment and finds herself recruited into a fledgling intelligence organisation.

Enlisted as a spy, Alix is sent to Europe where she is tasked with getting close to a Nazi who might be willing to help the Allied forces - but there's also the chance he might be a double agent.

1946. Following the war, Alix moves to Paris to run the Service de la Presse for the yet-to-be-launched House of Christian Dior. But when a figure from the war reappears and threatens to destroy her future, Alix realises that only she can right the wrongs of the past and bring him to justice.

The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre is a thrilling, sumptuous work of historical fiction told in three timelines: before, during and after WWII. This completely immersive story takes readers from the dangerous, intrigue-filled rooms in Switzerland where elites of both sides mingled and schemed during the war, to the glamorous halls of the House of Dior in the golden age of French fashion and journalism.

My Thoughts

“There was one brief and shining moment, wasn't there, when it looked like the world would change. For four years we spied and we worked damn hard and we saved people's lives and we made a difference and nobody cared too much that we were women. And then it all ended. Went backwards, even.” ….. "We mattered for a bit, didn't we? Alix said, unable to prevent nostalgia making her voice heavy.”

Honesty from the outset: I am a HUGE fan of Natasha’s and beginning to believe she can do no wrong. I have read and loved everything she has written, always filled with anticipation for her annual release. I am happy to say that The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre is a most worthy addition to her already stellar line up. 

There is a bit of everything in her latest offering - balls and romance, fashion and careers for women, spies and danger. To me, the quality of Natasha’s prose levels up with each new novel she gives her readers. This, more than likely, is a result of the incredible research she undertakes that allows details to be brought to life. Her words literally sing off the page. 

‘…they'd shared both the most awful and beautiful things: spectacular orbs of light within the darkness. It was why some journeys were better not taken alone; sometimes you needed another person to help you find the single star hidden in the storm.’

The story of Alix is presented in three timelines (thus the title) - before, during and after WWII - and it makes for enthralling reading as you witness her development and growth over such a tumultuous period in history. A story starting with loss and innocence, to bravery and sacrifice, to finally new beginnings through fashion and resolution. From orphan girl, to WWII spy, to the marketing genius for the emerging fashionista, Dior - Alix leads an incredible life. 

‘For just a minute, Alix could see the girl from ten years before with red-gold hair and an exuberant smile. Could also see a woman with damp green eyes and an aching heart. But the Alix crossing the bridge now felt like a different one, a third Alix perhaps, made up of the other two but also of so much more.’

The range of secondary characters must be seen to be believed, especially those seeking revenge for the terrible injustices both during and after WWII. The Dior couture is a definite highlight that will see you checking out Natasha’s social media as she keeps her readers well informed with details and imagery to make the reading experience more immersive. The romance meter is off the page with a slow burn that would surely make the record books. All so seamlessly woven together thus allowing the reader to lose themself in the most exhilarating of tales. 

‘… the tears slide down her cheeks anyway - useless tears because there is no physical human response that can possibly express the pain she feels at him asking her to be the custodian of his soul.’

Natasha’s writing leaves me speechless as she masterfully crafts ideas, research and writing to annually provide her readers with incredible historical fiction. Prose that speaks to my heart; plots that are compelling right down to the very last page and many unforgettable characters to add to the ever growing Lester List Hall of Fame!

‘I sometimes wonder, … what I'll regret more when I'm seventy and alone. Will I regret the aloneness, the lack of a husband and children - will I want to reach into the past and tell myself …acquiesce to the life I'm supposed to have? Or will I … want to stand in the doorway and scream at myself right now to never, ever acquiesce? …. How can I know what I'd treasure most when some of those treasures have never found their way into my hands?’

The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre is simply a must read for lovers of this genre - romance interwoven with a great spy mystery, with an incredible nod to the empowerment of women through the ages. I regret powering through this book as I must now wait another twelve months for more from one of the best historical fiction writers of today. 

‘Because she supposed that was all there was in the end. The effort you made to let events shape you and coerce you down a path, or the effort you made to shape yourself and steer yourself in spite of what happened.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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