My first official review for BELLE EPOQUE, thanks to BOOKLIST!
|Maude, 16 and homeless, makes her way from provincial Brittany to Paris, determined to claim a place in its shimmering heart. But life at the close of the nineteenth century is hard. Maude struggles to make her way and soon finds herself a repoussoir at the Durandeau Agency, a plain girl rented out to the cream of society to make their own daughters shine in comparison. In no time, she is employed by a countess and attached to Isabelle, a debutante of surprising integrity. Maude is soon caught in a web of deceit, torn between her employer and her friend, between splendor and substance, and between reality and dreaming. She clings to the work that keeps her afloat, dazzled by the splendor of society and intrigued by Isabelle’s secret plans for university, all the while tamping down her own, growing hopes for a small piece of happiness that just might include Paul, a floppy, charming bohemian musician. With resonant period detail, elegant narration, and a layered exploration of class and friendship, this provocative novel is ripe with satisfaction.— Thom Barthelmess|