Book Review: The Riviera House by Natasha Lester

About the Book:

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?

Lush, engrossing and deeply moving, this is the story of the brave women who worked against the Nazis, told by the international bestselling author of The Paris Secret and The French Photographer.

Published by Hachette Australia
Released 1st September 2021

My Thoughts:

Natasha Lester has well and truly made her mark when it comes to writing novels about the bravery and determination of women’s efforts at resistance and survival throughout WWII. In her latest release, The Riviera House, she turns her gaze to art, namely, the efforts of a brave few who endeavoured to hide, record, and save from destruction, priceless art that was being stolen and destroyed by the Nazis. And what of the importance of art, when human lives are being lost?

‘Art is all we have when words fail us, when mankind fails us and when we each fail each other. If we don’t save these works, we can’t save ourselves.’

Not only was this a novel about art, but it was also written with such artistry. There were many times where I just lingered over passages, appreciating the way in which I could envisage the entire scene so vividly on account of Natasha’s beautifully descriptive prose. Take this as an example, the way in which her words, quite literally, paint a picture.

‘…his face a stark and sludgy grey, the same wretched shade produced when all the colours – brilliant blues and passionate reds and hopeful yellows and adoring pinks and the golden colour of dreams – were mixed and, rather than a hue more spectacular than each individual shade, what appeared was something ignoble.’

I really appreciate art, although I know nothing about it, technically. I love how this character speaks about the Mona Lisa after seeing it for the first time, and how it makes her realise why it should be saved; this is what I’m talking about when I mention brilliant and Natasha Lester in the same sentence.

‘I asked Monsieur Jaujard to show me the Mona Lisa. You’d always said she was a queen among paintings and I wanted to see; to know why you and Luc were taking so many risks for a painted woman. It was almost evening and when Monsieur lifted the lid off her crate, I saw it: the sfumato, those edgeless shadows you’d often talked about. They were . . .’ She paused, groping for words. ‘Depthless,’ she settled on. ‘As if they went on and on through time and into forever. Then I looked up at Monsieur Jaujard and even though he’s seen the Mona Lisa a thousand times –but maybe never before in the darkness of France’s broken heart –he was crying too. So, I had to do something –and I won’t stop until the Nazis are gone forever.’

The Riviera House is a deeply moving story of love, sacrifice, patriotism and bravery. Heartbreaking and hopeful, and above all, inspiring. I absolutely loved this novel – all the stars!

‘At neither of these next moments do the heavens weep. They pass by unremarked amid the shadow of so much cruelty. Was it all, then, for nothing?’

☕☕☕☕☕

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Riviera House by Natasha Lester

  1. Pingback: Historical Fiction Round Up: September 2021 | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

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