STARRED REVIEW
November 18, 2014

Parisian intrigue + a British ingenue

By Imogen Robertson
Review by
British-born Maud Heighton, the protagonist of Imogen Robertson’s latest page-turner, The Paris Winter, couldn’t have picked a worse time to come study painting at Academie Lafond. It’s the winter of 1909-1910, when the Seine overflowed its banks, flooding people out of their homes and sucking away the very ground beneath their feet.
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British-born Maud Heighton, the protagonist of Imogen Robertson’s latest page-turner, The Paris Winter, couldn’t have picked a worse time to come study painting at Academie Lafond. It’s the winter of 1909-1910, when the Seine overflowed its banks, flooding people out of their homes and sucking away the very ground beneath their feet. Perhaps Maud had some idea that she would be a starving artist for a few weeks before she sold her first painting and made a big splash at the Salon, but she had no idea what she was in for. She’s broke, starving, freezing and probably on the verge of a deathly illness.

Fortunately for Maud, her rather desperate situation is noticed and she’s sent to be the companion for a young woman named Sylvie Morel, who lives with her brother. Now, Maud has a warm bed to sleep in and some decent food to eat. The Morels are kind to her. Everything goes well, until, of course, it doesn’t. The bad stuff includes but isn’t limited to gaslighting, attempted murder and an ingenious jewel heist that almost works. It all engenders in Maud a lust for vengeance that recalls Greek tragedy. The phrase “revenge is a dish best served cold” seems not to have occurred to her. But will it be a tragedy for her, or a tragedy for the people who betrayed her?

Robertson is skillful at conjuring up not only a twisty, gripping plot, but also compelling characters. There’s the upright, intelligent and ambitious Maud and her wealthy, compassionate fellow artist Tatiana, who’s in Paris with two fussy aunts who want her to marry some rich Russian dolt against her will. There’s the earthy life model Yvette, neurasthenic Sylvie and an American-born Countess who’s no better than she ought to be. These multidimensional characters and Robertson’s descriptions of Belle Epoque Paris—even of rats in ancient, flooding cellars—make the reader want to visit, even for a day.

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The Paris Winter

The Paris Winter

By Imogen Robertson
St. Martin's
ISBN 9781250051837

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