Thank you School Library Journal for this lovely review!
Inspired by Emile Zola’s short story Les Repoussoirs, this debut novel takes place during the late 1800s. Maude Pichon, a runaway, discovers life in Paris to be crueler and much less romantic than she imagined from her country home in provincial Brittany. To get by, she takes a job as a repoussoir, a young woman hired for her ugliness and used to highlight the beauty of her patroness. Maude’s first client is a challenge: a headstrong young woman named Isabel, who is unaware that Maude has been hired by her mother to act as Isabel’s beauty foil. But as the lines of friendship are blurred by her responsibilities, what will Maude choose? Should she stay true to her friend at the expense of her career or continue to be the mother’s puppet, potentially sacrificing Isabel’s happiness? This is a compelling story about friendship, the complexity of beauty, and self-discovery. It is full of strong female characters driven by the pursuit of their dreams rather than pursuit of a husband, thus defying their societal roles. Maude’s evolution and development are believable, and are the driving force of the plot. Her journey from the proletariat to the elite and back again gives readers a comprehensive picture of Parisian life during the Belle Epoque.
–Tiffany O’Leary, Mount Saint Mary College, NY