Americans in Paris
The Paris Winter
A city of contrasts and ambition, of beauty and treachery.....
The Boulevard Montmartre at Night, Camille Pissarro ( 1897). Oil, canvas. National Gallery, London, UK. Public domain.
Paris 1909: A city of contrasts and ambition. of beauty and Treachery… Maud Heighton Came to Lafond’s famous Académie to paint and to flee the constraints of her small English town. It took all her courage to escape, but Paris eats money.
While her fellow students enjoy the dazzling pleasures of the Belle Époque, Maud slips into poverty. Quietly starving and dreading another cold Paris winter, Maud takes a job as a companion to young, beautiful Sylvie Morel.
But Sylvie has a secret: as addiction to opium. As Maud is drawn into the Morels’ world of elegant luxury, their secrets become hers. Before the New Year arrives, a greater deception will plunge her into the darkness that waits beneath this glittering city of light.
Reviewed by the Independent
As a writer of historical thrillers, Imogen Robertson's reputation is beginning to outpace most of her rivals'. The Paris Winter is quite as accomplished as her earlier books. But there is a canny Robertson strategy, also evident in the previous novel Anatomy of Murder, which employed a radical shift of gears. The Paris Winter begins as an elegant Henry James-style novel of class and manners, with an innocent abroad finding herself up against more worldly (and corrupt) foreigners; the naïf here is an impoverished young English girl. But suddenly the narrative (with its adroit evocation of early 20th-century Paris) has a bone-shaking twist. We move from a novel of art and character into a stygian, edgy thriller. If this makes the novel sound broken-backed, that is certainly not the case.
As in her earlier work, Robertson absolutely justifies her tactics. The period detail here is impeccable, with the reader transported into the exhilarating Paris of Manet and the Belle Époque. But what is perhaps more developed is Robertson's subtle and nuanced grasp of character, notably of the vulnerable Maud: a heroine almost worthy of Thomas Hardy. It is this characterisation – as much as the narrative – that lifts The Paris Winter into a category of its own.
Who's talking about The Paris Winter?
Once the seeds of intrigue are planted, the scope of the book is expanded to encompass murderous plots, shady Parisian undersides, upper-class dealings, gems of history and gems – as in jewels. The women are heartwarming as friends and delightfully effective as crime fighters. With a twisty, well-crafted plot, this novel is rich in historical detail and robust with personality."
Rich as a ripened red wine, The Paris Winter intoxicates and satisfies the reader's darkest desires to be mysteriously entranced. With dazzling Belle Époque detail and nail-biting plot, Robertson stylishly paints a historical thriller of intrigue and treachery that will have you staying up late to the very last page drop. A compulsive read. I couldn't put it down."
author of the international bestseller
The Baker's Daughter
The Paris Winter is a wonderful novel, an utterly transportive and richly detailed amalgam of historical fiction and spellbinding thriller. Imogen Robertson brings Belle Époque Paris vividly to life in all its light and shadow, beauty and squalor, glory and treachery."
Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
Paints a dark, evocative portrait of the turbulent era, highlighting the limits placed on women . . . instead of centering on a conventional love story like similar historical works, the dramatic, intriguing, richly detailed historical novel is held together by the tensile strength of the women's friendship."
Shelf Awarness for Readers,
It was by chance the women painting in Passage des Panoramas heard so quickly and so brutally of the tragedy. One of Lafond's male students, a young romantic Englishman called John Edwards, lived in the room beside Rose Champion's in a shabby tenement hunkered off the Boulevard Clichy. It was an unpleasant building without gas or electricity, and with only one tap which all the inhabitants had to share.
He knew his neighbour was a student in one of the all-female ateliers, but she was not pretty enough to attract his attention, not while the streets were full of French girls who made it their business to charm the male gaze; what's more, he assumed that as a woman she would have little of interest to say about art.
When he took up his residence, though, he noticed that Rose kept herself and her threadbare wardrobe clean and approved of that, then thought no more about her. In the month they had been neighbours they had had one short conversation on the stairs about the teaching at Acadamie Lafond. It ended when he asked to see her work and Rose told him he wouldn't understand it. He had wished only to be polite and was offended by her refusal. They did not speak again.
The news of the suicide of Rose Champion reached her fellow students at the Acadmie Lafond on a pale wintry morning a little before ten o'clock. The heat from the black and clanking stove had not yet reached the far corners of the studio, and the women on the outer reaches of the group had to blow on their fingers to make them warm enough to work.
Maud Heighton was always one of the first to arrive each day and set up her easel, which meant she could have taken her pick of places on each Monday when the model for the week was chosen, but the Englishwoman liked to sit on the far eastern side of the room. The challenge of the narrow angle she had on the model throne and whatever man, woman or child happened to occupy it seemed to please her – and she returned to the spot week after week when warmer ones, or those with an easier angle of view were available.
She was there that morning, silent and studious as ever, when the news of Rose's death came tumbling up the stairs, so she was among the first to hear it. It was unfortunate – shocking even – that the news reached the female students so raw and sudden, but even in the best-run establishments, such things do occur.
A note from the author
The Paris Winter 1909
Every writer needs to challenge themselves, and I wanted to see if I could write a novel which was not part of the Westerman and Crowther series and not set in the 18th century. I read an article about the Paris floods of 1909 / 1910 and around the same time found an old photo album belonging to my grandmother and chronicling her travels around Europe before WWI. I also found her sketchbooks. I can’t draw, but both my brothers are fine artists. I think I became a writer because I can’t draw what’s in my head, so this book, the story of a young English artist at sea in the sophisticated and punishing world of the Parisian Belle Époche, gave me the chance to think about art as a discipline and a calling. And also about diamonds.
Articles about The Paris Winter
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