NOTE: I received early access to this manuscript in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you Netgalley and Forever Publishing. Publication Date: January 10, 2023.
Best-selling author Natasha Lester has done it all! THE THREE LIVES OF ALIX ST. PIERRE is historical fiction with suspense, romance, two interesting story lines, three-dimensional characters that grow and change over time — all set against the drama of World War II! Awarded five stars on Goodreads.
The novel moves back and forth in time (as so many contemporary books do these days), though together both only cover the period of 1937-47. At the center is Alix St. Pierre. Orphaned as a teen, Alix winds up living with her close friend (more like sister) Lillie’s family, and, for the first time, experiences a world of wealth and privilege. Though she never quite feels like she belongs.
One story thread follows Alix’s work during the war, where her facility with multiple languages lands her an important job working in intelligence. The second story involves Alix’s post-war job in Paris, handling press relations for a brand new, visionary women’s apparel designer, by the name of Christian Dior (1905-57). In both positions, Alix excels, proving herself intelligent, resourceful, and strategic. But, in both situations, she also finds herself in danger. Because her war responsibilities have left a big target on her back and many Nazis are still walking the streets free.
One big theme of the book is examining gender roles. This is an era where society sees women primarily as second class citizens, whose proper rolls are as wives and mothers serving the careers and aspirations of their husbands. So even when a woman is assigned work where lives are at stake, is she ever fully trusted? Can she act independently? And what becomes of someone like Alix who succeeds so brilliantly in intelligence work, but is then expected to return to a subservient role when the war ends. This is exactly what happened to millions of woman who worked and lived financially independent lives DURING World War II, taking on the jobs left behind by soldiers going overseas. And then, after the war, those same women were expected to quit those jobs and return to “domestic bliss.”
So, yes this book offers page-turning plots, with many unexpected twists and turns.
And yes, there are interesting characters.
Along with a budding romance.
But what Lester has also done is given voice to the thousands (millions?) of capable women who have not had the opportunity to use their brains in the pursuit of valuable work outside the home. Understandably, when World War II ended, emphasis was on the returning soldiers. But Lester has reminded us all about the war’s impact on women, by inserting 21st century feminist questions into this iconic 20th century event.
There is some violence in the book and a few moments where I thought the message was a little heavy-handed. (Some lecture-like dialog that made me wince a bit.) But nothing that spoiled my overall enjoyment of this very compelling read.
More about the author, Natasha Lester.
You may be interested in my reviews of other books by Natasha Lester: