Monday, July 14, 2014

Two Women in Antoine de Saint Exupery's Life

Mignonne Lachapelle, a young fashion designer, leaves her comfortable life in Montreal to pursue success in New York. At first she is chagrined to learn that Madame Professor Vera Fiche, one of her teachers at the New York Fashion School, has stolen her designs and that the show created a sensation. At first she wants acknowledgment and nothing more to do with Madame Fiche, but when she's offered a chance to collaborate with her former professor, she agrees.

She knew Antoine in Montreal, but was surprised to meet him again in New York and in the Garment District. Through her fashion design work, she meets Consuelo, Antoine’s fiery wife. The triangle is set up. Antoine seeks Mignonne as an easier love than Consuelo. Consuelo wants to get him back, although she also has affairs, and Mignonne is forced to work with Consuelo although she is in love with Antoine.

Mignonne, the main character, is fictional, but the Saint-Exuperys are real people and their lives parallel the outline of the story. Both had a number of extra-marital affairs, but the details in this book are imagined by the author.

The fashion world of New York during WWII is well described and fascinating. However, the plot moves around a great deal and is made more complex by the structure which interleaves chapters by Mignonne in the first person with chapters by Consuelo in the third person. There are also long flashbacks which disrupt the flow of the story.

The most fascinating part for me was the discussion between Mignonne and Antoine about the artistic constraints of writing and fashion design. The parallels are helped by the fact that Saint-Exupery is working on The Little Prince during the the novel.

I enjoyed the descriptions of war time New York, but I found the love triangle hard to follow at times. Although I don't have reservations about using historical characters in fiction, I thought the portrayal of Consuelo was unfair. However, if you're interested in the WWII fashion world and in Saint-Exupereys life at the time when he wanted to return to liberate France and worked on The Little Prince, it's worth reading.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.