Paris, 1939 While working at the Louvre, Eliane Dufort falls for talented painter Xavier. But when the Nazis occupy the city, Xavier leaves for England and Eliane must send her sisters to the country. Broken-hearted, she finds herself working with the mysterious Rose Valland on a dangerous secret mission for the French Resistance: to record all the priceless national treasures the Germans are stealing.
Present Day Desperate to escape her grief, Remy Lang arrives at a stunning private estate on the French Riviera. While working on her vintage fashion business, she discovers a catalogue of artworks stolen during World War II and is shocked to see a painting that hung on her childhood bedroom wall in Sydney. Who is her family, really? And does the Riviera house hold more secrets than Remy is ready to face?
My thoughts on The Riviera House
When I finished this one last night I posted on Instagram that people could find me sobbing on the floor, and let me tell you – this one really moved me, and I had so many feelings!
I do love books where a current day story is woven cleverly with historical fiction, and The Riviera House does that just so beautifully. Often in these split timeline books I find there is one story I prefer one story over the other, but in this case both had me fully engrossed.
While Elaine and Remy showed some similar traits from the very start of the book it did take a little while to see how their stories would finally come together. I thought this was so well done, and when everything came together it all felt like it fit naturally, rather than being forced together. There were some really heartbreaking and hopeful moments in the way Elaine and Remy were linked, and I just loved these parts of the book (it hadn’t occurred to me how hard that would be to talk about spoiler-free!).
One of the indications that historical fiction has really hit the spot for me is when I can’t wait to google more about the events that inspired it. Before reading The Riviera House I didn’t really know a lot about the work that was done to save artworks during the war, and this book has me so interested in finding out more. The story felt so well researched, and Lester paints a really tangible picture of life in Nazi-occupied Paris from Elaine’s perspective.
Equally vivid was the modern day setting of Remy’s story. Yes, it’s true that I am absolutely longing to travel again, but I really did feel that excitement of wandering through French markets with Remy and her companions. I could absolutely picture the house and the beach, and loved the way Remy’s new friendships grew. I also liked that through Remy we see a woman learning to live with grief, rather than ‘getting over it’. One more thing I absolutely adored about the modern story line was that Lester has brought Remy’s business to life with an Instagram account like she has in the story. The photography and fashion and art are such a big part of the story and I thought this was a really fun touch (you can check it out here).
This one comes with all the usual content warnings you would expect from a book set in an occupied city during WWII, as well as warnings for grief, death, including child loss (off the page), and pregnancy/child birth complications. While both women had really tragic aspects to their stories (like really – saying ‘tragic’ feels to small), I always felt there was a glimmer of hope right underneath the tragedy. This made The Riviera House both a heart-wrenching and heart-warming read for me.
I do have more of Natasha Lester’s books sitting on my shelf, and now I’m really looking forward to dipping into them!
Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of her books and if you have a favourite – or if this one is on your tbr!
Big thanks to Hachette Australia for sending me a free copy of this one!
The Riviera House by Natasha Lester
Out now from Hachette Australia.
Source: I received a free copy for review from Hachette Australia (thank you!). All views are my own.
Category: Historical Fiction, WWII, Paris