REVIEW: The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre by Natasha Lester

In brief: Alix has landed her dream job working for new designer Dior in Paris after World War II. But she is haunted by her experiences during the war and is determined to bring her informant to justice.

The good: I loved the descriptions of Dior’s designs!

The not-so-good: I was a little confused at times as to the intent of Alix’s nemesis.

Why I chose it: Really like Natasha Lester’s historical fiction. Thank you to Hachette for the copy.

Year: 2022

Pages: 425

Publisher: Hachette

Setting: Paris, Bern and New York

Rating: 8 out of 10

Natasha Lester writes historical fiction that covers women’s experiences throughout history, often exploring little known facts. The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre combines that with some well-known history in the establishment of the House of Dior. It’s a rich story combining fashion with spying during World War II.

The heroine, Alix, hasn’t had an easy life. She was orphaned and taken in by a rich friend’s family, but always felt deep down that the life she was leading could end abruptly. She made her own way in the world, working in public relations which came to the notice of the US government during World War II. Alix is assigned to Switzerland to gather evidence that could help the US and the Allies to end the war against Germany. This is where Alix gets in deep with supporting the partisans in Italy, which will also lead to tragic circumstances after her informant sends her dud information resulting in a fatal mission for many. After the war, Alix is trying to forget, and ends up back in Paris working for Christian Dior ahead of his first collection. But not everyone in Paris is happy to see Alix there, with multiple parties wanting their revenge. To try to lay the past to rest, Alix teams up with Anthony who was on that fateful mission to find out exactly what went wrong and where. The results will be convoluted and shocking.

The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre is slightly different to Lester’s recent novels in that there is one main character, but over multiple timelines. The novel starts with Alix before the war, then jumps to post war in Paris. Her story working for the Office of Strategic Services is then told in in separate parts. It does work well, as the story jumps in time just when it needs to. I did find that I occasionally forgot some of the details relating to Alix’s spying and what was happening. It did take some time for why Alix feels so much guilt to become clear as the story builds to the deadly mission. I think I would have preferred a few heavy hints to keep me invested in this section.

The sections on Dior in the build up to his first collection and the fervour afterwards are fantastic. Call me frivolous, but I enjoyed the look behind the scenes of the creation of such beautiful fashion. Reading about Dior in fiction was also a lot more fun (for me anyway) than reading any biography. It’s a good juxtaposition against Alix’s demons outside of book, as well as showing the limitations in society of a woman who has to work versus a socialite. Alix being one of these women gave the whole story a strong feminist vibe, capped off by her determination to create a magazine for the working woman. (I’m still not certain that such a magazine exists even now). Alix is prickly, determined and dedicated, all attributes that work both for and against her. Sometimes it was difficult as a reader to watch Alix’s stubbornness work against her, other times it worked brilliantly. Her growth during the story from someone hurt and distrustful to a woman willing to take a chance on trust made for a great ending, even better than the romantic happy ever after! Alix is a character I’d be happy to read a sequel about – does she achieve her work and life dreams in the 1950s in comparison to the housewives of that time?


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