The French Photographer
Inspired by the incredible true story of Lee Miller, Vogue model turned one of the first female war photojournalists, the new novel by the bestselling author of The Paris Seamstress
Manhattan, Paris, 1942: When Jessica May’s successful modelling career is abruptly cut short, she is assigned to the war in Europe as a photojournalist for Vogue. But when she arrives the army men make her life as difficult as possible. Three friendships change that: journalist Martha Gellhorn encourages Jess to bend the rules, paratrooper Dan Hallworth takes her to places to shoot pictures and write stories that matter, and a little girl, Victorine, who has grown up in a field hospital, shows her love. But success comes at a price.
France, 2005: Australian curator D’Arcy Hallworth arrives at a beautiful chateau to manage a famous collection of photographs. What begins as just another job becomes far more disquieting as D’Arcy uncovers the true identity of the mysterious photographer — and realises that she is connected to D’Arcy’s own mother, Victorine.
Crossing a war-torn Europe from Italy to France, The French Photographer is a story of courage, family and forgiveness, by the bestselling author of The Paris Seamstress and A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald.
Jessica May’s modelling career stalled when she headed for Europe as a photojournalist in 1942. She was only allowed to the hospital camps – women couldn’t go near the front line – and while the male journalists had their own areas to send copy from, Jess and her friend Martha Gellhorn had to do the best they could. It would be the meeting by Jess of Dan Hallworth, paratrooper in charge of many men and well respected by those same men, that would change Jess’ ability within those pages of war, and the stories and pictures that would make a difference.
When Jess first met Victorine, a sweet little girl who was being cared for at one of the field hospitals, she soon grew to love her. The daily horrors and cruelty that surrounded them all were eased just slightly as she held Victorine in her arms. Other women photojournalists joined Jess and Martha, among them Lee Miller – their work essential, and what the censors didn’t cut out, made it to publication.
When Australian curator D’Arcy Hallworth arrived at the chateau in France in 2005 to collate the photographs of an unknown photographer, she had no idea the shattering changes which were about to overtake her life. Her disbelief when she saw a photo of her own mother in among the relics of the past had her doubting everything she’d known of her life. D’Arcy couldn’t understand the connection of her mother to this long ago past – and she wasn’t sure if she was brave enough to pursue it either…
The French Photographer is the latest by Aussie author Natasha Lester and it’s absolutely heartbreakingly brilliant! I can’t believe this author can continue to improve her books, time and again – but this one, in my opinion, is her best yet! Based on fact, the descriptions of the war years, the different characters which grew on me – Jennings was a sweetheart; Victorine a delight – and the others who were despicable but so well drawn. But the three main characters – Jess, Dan and Victorine – were so very special. The French Photographer is a wonderful historical fiction novel by an author who is right on top of her game – and I highly recommend it. 5 stars
With thanks to Hachette AU for my copy to read in exchange for an honest review.