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The Beautiful American

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,343 ratings  ·  264 reviews
From Paris in the 1920s to London after the Blitz, two women find that a secret from their past reverberates through years of joy and sorrow ...

As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famou
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by NAL
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Melinda I have not read this book but I like this genre. I liked All the Light We Cannot See but did not love The Nightingale. The Nightingale is very sad and…moreI have not read this book but I like this genre. I liked All the Light We Cannot See but did not love The Nightingale. The Nightingale is very sad and depressing but All the Light was more exciting. I liked The Perfume Collector, which is before WWII.(less)

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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  2,343 ratings  ·  264 reviews

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Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Spanning two continents during the years leading up to, during and after the second world war, The Beautiful American tells the story of two women (One real and one fictional) growing up in changing times. In the wake of the war in Europe, expat American Nora Tours is in London, searching in vain for her teenage daughter, Dahlia, when she will meet an old friend, (Lee Miller).

Through flashbacks we the reader will learn about Nora's upbringing, her first encounters as a playmate with Lee as a chi
Glenda L
Apr 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This was a Goodreads ARC win for me ... thank you very much. I have been putting off reading this book because I wasn't sure I would like it ... boy, was I wrong. This is an historical novel about two girls who grew up in the late 1920's, matured to young women in the 1930's, withstood the war and aged into the 1940's. One is the beautiful Lee Miller, model, photographer and war correspondent ... the other a fictional friend who the author created to make Lee Miller come to life in the book. I h ...more
Laura Lee
May 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
I would like to give this book 3 stars but I just can't! One of the reviews on the cover of the book compares this book to The Paris Wife. Hah! What a joke!
This book is about the famous (though I have never heard of her) model and photographer Lee Miller, who was also a lover of Man Ray ( who at least I have heard of).
I didn't particularly like any of the characters, least of all Lee. Nora, the narrator, is a doormat and her boyfriend Jamie is just sad and predictable. The only character who co
Renee Rosen
May 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy of this wonderful novel and I LOVED every word. MacKin takes you into the ex-pat world of many famous and fictional artists during the 20s in Paris and beyond, including the Blitz in London.

Its a beautiful, touching story that's compulsively readable. Filled with rich characters and historical detail, I'm so excited for people to discover this wonderful novel and cannot wait to read more from her.
Nov 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, fiction
3.5 stars

Full review to come

Interesting read, I just felt like something was missing...

Meg - A Bookish Affair
"The Beautiful American" is the story of Nora, an American girl that follows her sweetheart overseas to Paris during the Roaring 20s. It's there that she meets up with her childhood friend, Lee Miller. Before reading this book I had heard of Lee Miller but I didn't really know too much about her. Lee Miller is a female photographer and model who worked with the likes of Man Ray and Pablo Picasso. She did a lot of surrealist photography and was a larger-than-life character. She is a secondary cha ...more
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

3.5/5 stars, rounded up

I read this book in one day. It was like a good meal that should be filling but leaves you hungry. The story and the characters have a great skeleton; there is no meat on the bone. Overnight I pondered how it could have been made richer, more filling. The writing isn't bad, though there were times it felt like English wasn't the authors first language, I didn't hate it (from the bio she teaches creative writing at
Kristy Miller
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Nora runs into Lee Miller in the door of Harrods while she is searching for her missing 16 year old daughter after WWII, and is invited to Lee's house for a weekend party. With that set as the frame we flash back to their childhoods, when Nora, the gardener's daughter, was playmate to the wild young heiress Elizabeth Miller. The story progresses along Nora's story line, her running away to London and Paris with her boyfriend after high school, and their dreams of being artists. But I don't care. ...more
Erika Robuck
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"Jeanne Mackin blends a tale as intoxicating as the finest fragrance. Spanning wars both personal and global, A BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN leaves its essence of love, loss, regret, and hope long after the novel concludes." (My Cover Endorsement)
Laura Kay Bolin
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing

An absolutely beautiful novel. The novel begins with Nora looking all over Paris for her daughter. We don't know how old she is or the situation surrounding her disappearance. Only that Nora is looking at places she believes her daughter, Dahlia, would search out. While looking for her daughter, Nora runs into her old friend Lee. There are a few 'flashbacks', but when Nora goes off with Lee, the author tells us Nora's story up until current day.

The novel i
May 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written story of reflection of days gone by. We enter the carefree, bohemian artists life pre WWII in vibrant, chic Paris. Two women, contrasting characters in personality and lifestyle yet bound by tragedy. Polar opposites yet yearning to mirror the other, envious, loathed, betrayed, these two women have an attraction and an unspoken past and secret.

Lee is manipulative, self absorbed, considering her childhood trauma you understand her questionable ways. You can't help feeling for
Abigail | notesfromgail
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Updated Review: I have read several reviews that expressed the opinion that Nora was a doormat and Lee was a much more interesting character. It is sad to me that the author's intentions for Nora have been lost on so many. I personally loved that the author created the character Nora (as well as Jaime) as a catalyst for these strong famous characters such as Lee Miller, Man Ray, and Pablo Picasso. First of all, it makes these celebrities feel more tangible, like they are a "friend of a friend". ...more
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a well written entertaining novel about a time period that I've always found so romantic (between WWI and WWII). The main character is fictional, but she is friends with the real life Lee Miller. I knew nothing about Lee prior to this book, but am captivated by her feminist free spirit. Becoming a war correspondent is tough enough for women today, let alone 60+ years ago.

Mackin does a good job presenting this woman outside of her own time, but essentially this is just an interesting st
Stephen Poleskie
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This newest novel The Beautiful American from Jeanne Mackin is a breathtaking look at art and politics in the years leading up to World War II. Based on the life of the beautiful Lee Miller, the model turned photographer, it follows the friendship between Lee and Nora, a childhood friend who meets up with her again in the dizzying Paris of the 30's and 40's. Lee lived bravely, even recklessly, matching the wild surrealists in their search for art and pleasure and eventually making the leap from ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 stars. This book covers the same time frame as many others do. The novel moves back and forth between Poughkeepsie, NY, Paris, Grasse, France. Pre WWI through post WWII. We meet Pablo Picasso, Lee Miller, Ray Man and others of the between the wars Paris expat scene. Some aspects of the work are entertaining but there are plot developments that to me did not occur naturally. The author attempted to add some intellectual weight to the work but I did not find it successful. International, histo ...more
A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional women.

These words copied from the book's summary say it all for me. I loved this book and really got into the characters. Plus the words used to describe relationships and events were truly beautiful.

If you are a romantic, this book is truly worth the read.

Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I won a paperback copy of this novel from a giveaway contest hosted by France Book Tours . This review in its entirety was originally posted at

Suffice to say the opening scene really grabbed my attention and left me curious to know more about Nora and Lee, what brought them into each other’s social cirlces, and what drove them apart. I really felt for Nora and everything that happened to her throughout this novel. She’s surrounded by
May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received this as a Goodreads giveaway winner and I'm very grateful that I won. This is a beautifully written book about Nora Tours and her journey from a young girl in Poughkeepsie, NY to Paris and then to Grasse, France. The book starts with Nora searching for her 16-year-old daughter Dahlia who has disappeared from Grasse right after WWII ending. Nora thinks Dahlia will retrace her own footsteps of her life in Paris and London. She soon meets her friend Lee Miller, who she has known since th ...more
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Although I liked the writing (the descriptions are lovely, and in that area it is very much like The Paris Wife-- scenes of Paris in the 1920s, doormat narrator...), there were so many things about this that irked me.

#1-- Narrator. Doormat.
If I found out my long-time boyfriend/lover was in bed with Lee Miller, the first words out of my mouth would have been "Do you KNOW she's got the clap?! You ASSHOLE!" And then I would have begun worrying if he'd given it to me, since their affair had been g
Caroline Wilson
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
"The Beautiful American" tells the story of Lee Miller, a 20th century model and photographer who became one of the well known faces of the Surrealist movement and the first female war correspondent during World War II.

Told from the perspective of fictional character Nora Tours, the novel begins in Poughkeepsie, New York were both girls play together as children. They couldn't be more different though: Lee is the pampered daughter of the local factory owner while Nora is the gardener's daughter.
Suzanne Lilly
I was gifted a copy of this book during The Beautiful American blog tour, and once I began reading, I was immediately immersed in the setting and story. As a bit of background, let me just tell you I'm not an expert on famous artists and I rarely read biographies of artists. In fact, I had never heard of Lee Miller, the photographer central to this story. While this book is not a biography of Picasso, or Man Ray or Lee Miller, one comes away with the feeling of intimate knowledge of their motiva ...more
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews

The Beautiful American is an elegantly written novel that explores the lives of two fascinating women whose paths' cross several times between childhood and middle-age. Their experiences will inspire you, make you smile, and leave you with a heavy heart. It's a journey not to be missed.

Nora is an American living abroad in France but when her sixteen-year-old daughter turns up missing, Nora's search takes her to London. As her search continues where she runs into her old friend, Lee Miller. Lee i
Oct 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I was very much looking forward to reading this book but when I reached the end all I could think was, "Huh. That's it?" As a previous reviewer noted, this book was compared to The Paris Wife, which I enjoyed immensely, but I can't say I agree with that testament.

The Beautiful American's narrator, Nora, is a small town girl who as a child is sent to play with the wealthy daughter of a factory owner- LiLi Miller. Their friendship is tenuous at best and falls apart the day it is discovered that Li
Karen Barbieri
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed reading the book. Recommend to anyone who loves Paris and learn more about French history.
Aug 22, 2014 rated it liked it
The Beautiful American is the story of a real person in a fictional novel. The Beautiful American is Lee Miller, an American surrealist photographer who lived in Paris before World War II, then the U.S., then England. The story is told from the point of view of American Nora Tours, who is a fictional character. Nora meets Lee when they are children in Poughkeepsie, New York, and they both end up in Paris.

I was initially concerned when I realized Lee Miller was a real person in a fictional story
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, i-own
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
To be fair, I read this book after having finished a fantastic novel by the name of Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. Whenever a reader finishes a book she's thoroughly enjoyed, it becomes that much more difficult for the follow-up book to live up to the standard of the previous one. This is what I found with The Beautiful American.

Perhaps my biggest complaint was that I found none of the characters in this historical fiction tale to be sympathetic. It wasn't until I read the discussion with th
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Oh my goodness, very deep,dark and full of the unexpected. I had never heard of Lee Miller, but now I can't get enough. The more I research the more I think how sad, but how she lived and did not live in her life time. She did so much with her life yet it was like she was going through the motions and not really being there just a body who did not want to look at as a body but all the the things she did made her just an object to be looked at until the war. Her photo's of the war showed her tale ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that when finished I feel a lingering nostalgia for some time. Keep remembering parts of it.
It is about human imperfection, true love and friendship, war and betrayal, kindness and brutality. The story feels authentic, honest, believable and is threaded to scents. Told by a perfumer as if it were the story of a perfume. It opens with the description of the uncorking of a bottle of perfume the initial smell and it deepens -the story and the perfume-with the top middle
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was really, really difficult to read at a few key points in the narrative, but it's still a beautifully written and conceived story. I think the comparisons to The Paris Wife are very legitimate, though at times almost too much so. It bugged me a little how similar Nora's character was to how Hadley was portrayed in The Paris Wife. And, oddly, Lee Miller almost takes on the Hemingway role from a theoretical standpoint. Still, a fascinating mix of fiction and history, and it was exciting to ...more
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Jeanne Mackin is the author of The Beautiful American and A Lady of Good Family. In addition to several other novels as well as short fiction and creative nonfiction, she is the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers and co-editor of The Norton Book of Love. She lives with her husband in upstate New York.

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