I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for The Girl From Paris by Ella Carey today and being able to share a fabulous piece written by her with some background on a special dress in chapter one…
Vianne rushes through the crowded streets of Paris as the German bombs begin to fall. As she rounds the corner she sees the familiar spires of the old church burst into flames. Too late, she realizes that her mother and sister are trapped inside…
Paris, 1918. The end of war is in sight, and young seamstress Vianne Mercier is longing for the day when she can stop sewing military uniforms and start creating the beautiful dresses that she has been dreaming up in her head.
But just when it seems like peace is within reach, Vianne’s mother and sister are killed in a terrible air raid. To make matters worse, Vianne’s brother has returned home a changed man. Controlling and cruel, he presents Vianne with an ultimatum; give up her dreams of becoming a designer, or be forced onto the streets, penniless and alone.
With nothing left for her in Paris but sad memories, she decides to sail for New York. Determined not to look back, she throws herself into her new life—spending her days sewing dresses for wealthy Upper East Side women, and her evenings dancing the Charleston to Duke Ellington in the new downtown clubs. When Vianne meets handsome Italian Giorgio Conti, he encourages her career, and she feels safe for the first time since she lost her family.
Then news of a terrible accident compels Vianne to suddenly return to France, where she discovers proof of a wartime secret that changes everything she thought she knew about her family. Facing the threat of sickness and ruin, the people who forced Vianne out of her home now suddenly need her help.
Will Vianne find the courage to follow her heart, return to New York and her life with Giorgio? Or will duty bind her to the family she had left behind and force her to remain in France?
From Amazon Charts bestseller Ella Carey comes an utterly gripping and emotional historical wartime novel about the terrible choices people made during humanity’s darkest days. Fans of Fiona Valpy, Rhys Bowen and The Nightingale will adore this novel.
One of the loveliest things about writing The Girl from Pariswas the opportunity to do the most indulgent research into an area I’ve long loved- 1920’s fashion. I’ve always adored the way that dresses from that era are so simply designed, yet they feature some of the most exquisite detail you can imagine. It’s all in the detail with this era, and that’s also something I love.
In the opening of the book, Vianne, my lead character, is a young woman living with her family in their wildly beautiful apartment in Paris’ Marais district. The Marais district is one of my favourite areas of Paris, and Vianne lives right around the corner from the seventeenth century Places des Vosges, one of the most charming squares in all of Paris. Vianne’s father, Gabriel Mercier, owns an antique store called Celine, nearby. Gabriel loves to lose himself in his rarefied, poetic world, and in the same way, Vianne has a passion for sketching and designing her own dreamy garments as an antidote to the endless knitting of balaclavas that she carries out in order to support the French army in the Great War.
Vianne dreams of becoming a fashion designer one day. She has huge admiration for Paris’ leading designers, Gabrielle Chanel and Jeanne Paquin. Eventually, Vianne leaves Paris for fabulous 1920’s New York, where she is swept up into the enticing, exciting Jazz Age, working as a junior designer for a couturier on the Upper East Side.
Vianne designs many dresses throughout the course of the book, and each dress, while Vianne’s original work is inspired by a real garment, that I carefully researched. While I can’t share photos of the garments, I’d love to share a little background information behind one of the very special dresses in the first chapter of the book.
In the opening scene of the book, Vianne is sitting around a long wooden table in the once glamorous Belle Époque restaurant, La Violette. It’s March, 1918, and she’s knitted her way through the war, warm gloves, balaclavas, and socks for the French soldiers in the stinking cesspools that were the trenches of Northern France. For the last hour of her day, Vianne, who has finished her daily quota of knitting, is fixing the tiny rents in an evocative, early twentieth century summer dress owned by her beautiful Maman, who features strongly in the book.
The dress, which captured my heart the moment I laid eyes on the real inspiration, is entirely handmade in frail lace and cotton lawn. It features tiny flowers ‘crocheted,’ in cotton and lace, using an insertion method, where the cotton lawn fabric base is carefully trimmed away and is replaced by lace and crochet in zig-zag patterns. The effect is so light, and delicate, that it’s almost ephemeral. The shape of the skirt is A-lined, falling to the ground with a small train. The skirt features rows of tiny pintucks. The dress is all white, and these miniature patterns were extremely fashionable in the early 1900’s, with the fashionable focus on attention to detail. The bodice is modishly bloused with larger clusters of hand crocheted flowers, and a deep V neck, and the elbow length sleeves feature lace edges and tiny pin tucks.
This dress was probably acquired by Vianne’s Maman, Marie-Laure, around 1907, when ethereal muslins and dainty laces were the mode du jour in London and Paris. While the dresses were soft and moveable, they were held in place by rigid corseting beneath the frothy lace.
The dress that inspired the one in the book was given to the Victoria and Albert Museum by the Baron Charles de Menasce. I fell in love with this exquisite garment the moment I lay eyes on its delicate details. I can only imagine what it must have been like to sit on a soft blanket under willow trees by a riverbank on a gentle summer’s afternoon, enjoying a glass of champagne, with perhaps a white parasol to match. Days gone by, never to be seen again, only, perhaps, between the pages of a book…
Ella Carey is the USA Today and Amazon charts bestselling author of eight novels of historical fiction, including the Secrets of Paris Series, published with Hachette imprint, Bookouture. Ella’s novels have reached over one million readers and have been translated into fourteen languages. Ella has recently signed a six book deal in Germany and a nine book deal in Denmark. Ella’s latest novels are A New York Secret, and The Lost Girl of Berlin, both published with Bookouture in 2021. The Girl from Paris is the third novel in this new series, and will publish in January, 2022. Ella has a music degree in classical piano, and an arts degree majoring in English and history. Her novels have been shortlisted for ARRA awards.