I received an Advanced Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.
This was a fun historical fiction that blends secret service and fashion along with romance and some real-life historical characters. Alix St. Pierre is our heroine. Though she’s long mingled with the very wealthy, she’s the orphaned daughter of immigrants. During World War Two she finds herself working under Allen Dulles (a real historical figure) in Bern, Switzerland with the American Secret Services. Alix becomes a key connection for the Italian resistance, operating out of Northern Italy and in desperate need of Allied support.
In the novel’s present day setting, the year is 1947. The war is over and Alix has arrived in Paris to take a job as a publicist for a brand new fashion house under a man named Christian Dior. Dior’s designs are about to take the city by storm and change fashion but Alix needs to make sure Dior gets all the right press. Lurking in the shadows though is a man Alix knows only as La Voce, a Nazi informant she worked with during the war who ultimately betrayed her and allowed her to lead nine men to their deaths. To protect herself and to figure out who La Voce is, Alix must team up with the arrogant but handsome reporter, Anthony March, and rely on all her wits and smarts.
The story moves between these two times, the storylines illuminating one another quite nicely. Alix is smart, beautiful, and motivated. She is tireless in both her job at Dior and her desire to bring La Voce to justice. She is, of course, haunted by the things she did and saw and the deaths she bore witness to in the war. This is probably the most realistic part of the story – that Alix and everyone around her are bearing scars – either physical or emotional. Alix herself is immensely likeable and easy to cheer for, if not a little too perfect. There doesn’t seem to be much that Alix can’t do. Likewise, while Anthony initially comes across as brash and arrogant it isn’t difficult to see that the two of them will find out they have a lot in common.
While a lot about The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre might feel familiar to readers of this era of historical fiction, Lester does add some fresh elements. There seems to be a lot of media about the French Resistance but I hadn’t heard much about the resistance in Italy before. Lester really does capture the frustration of a group of people who want to work against fascism and the Nazis in Italy but are unable to do so or to garner the support they need from outside powers.
And, of course, the setting of the post-war fashion world is really fun to read about. This isn’t a part of history I know much about but there is a lot of lush and opulent description of beautiful dresses and wealthy people. Fashion is a reflection of its time and Lester uses the house of Dior to show how life and attitudes were changing (or not) in the post-war period. She uses this to demonstrate the frustrations many women felt at being expected to step down from the responsibilities they’d taken on simply because the war had ended and the men had returned. Alix herself felt overly modern to me at times but I couldn’t disagree with her thoughts on the situation.
Overall, a fun escapist read that will likely be enjoyed by readers who liked The Alice Network by Kate Quinn or The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
11 thoughts on “Book Review: The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre by Natasha Lester”
I’m definitely interested in the change in attitudes that happened around women being expected to give up their increased responsibilities postwar. The relief of the war being over in contrast to the frustration of being expected to step back once again must have made it a very strange time for women!
I agree! I often hear the positive side of women getting into the workforce during WWII but not as much about the backlash after the war ended.
Oof, I read one book by Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone, and it about slayed me. I’m still trying to figure out what is driving this huge desire from readers to get their hands on historical fiction about WWII. Not WWI, not Vietnam, not even the War in Afghanistan.
There is SO much fiction about WWII. I’m kind of over it and yet it’s hard to avoid. I think that is seen as a more black-and-white conflict so it’s easier to read and write about. Nazis are bad, Allies are good. The other conflicts you mention are harder to paint with this Us and Them brush, I think. I am sort of surprised that we don’t see more WWI fiction though.
The only WWI fiction I can think of that I’ve read was Rilla of Ingleside, the 8th book in the Green Gables series.
A Farewell to Arms and The Wars are the only other ones that come to mind. I actually have an ARC of a book out next month that’s set during WWI so I’ll be curious to see what it’s all about.
I had not realized A Farewell to Arms was WWI, which makes me think I should give it a try.
It is! The ending is devastating so be warned, if you give it a go.
I can see the appeal in this one- fashion, romance, danger! I’m not sure how I feel about the latest historical fiction trend that jumps back and forth through time, although I suppose that trend isn’t just in historical fiction – thriller writers seem to be relying on this technique quite a bit. Did this jumping back and forth work for you or are you getting fed up with it yet? LOL
I think it’s so common that it didn’t phase me but in general I do get tired of dual timelines. And really, this one probably could have been told all in the 1947 timeline just as effectively!
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