The disappearance of Astrid Bricard by Natasha Lester

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As a long term reader of Natasha Lester’s novels, I am constantly in awe of her ability to weave strong female characters into deeply complex and engaging narratives. The Disappearance of Astrid Bricard is no exception.

In this latest release the stories of three generations of fabulously talented fashion designers are shared. The Bricard women are treated disparagingly by the male-dominated fashion industry in France and even more appallingly in America. The stories of Mizza, Astrid and Blythe will both anger and intrigue the reader; anger directed at the relentless shocking verbal and emotional abuse by men involved in both the fashion industry and print media at the time; and intrigue in the layers beneath what the world has been influenced to see and hear versus what the real truth is.

The story begins with a short prologue set in 1973 at the Palace of Versailles fashion extravaganza between America and France where Astrid Bricard has disappeared. This leads into Chapter One set in 1970 and the beginning of Astrid’s story. She is a talented but unorthodox and provocative fashion student struggling to make a name for herself as she is seen only as the abandoned daughter of notorious Mizza Bricard, supposedly the muse of Christian Dior. Astrid’s story and struggle for recognition is incredibly hard and unjust, and her eventual disappearance remains an unsolved mystery. Her daughter Blythe Bricard, also suffering the effects of abandonment in many aspects of her life, is trying hard to hold her family together and establish her place in the world of fashion. Running parallel to her daughter and granddaughter’s stories is the underlying story of Mizza Bricard; her talent, her struggles and secrets, and her ultimate sacrifice.

The Disappearance of Astrid Bricard is a powerful story that will hold the interest of the reader until the dramatic ending. The information regarding the famous fashion houses of Europe is fascinating, the social history explored across the decades is both frustrating and enlightening.  The clever cameo appearances of popular characters, Remy from The Riviera House and Alix from The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre, are a stroke of genius and briefly continue their journeys.

This book is not just only about the raw astonishing stories of the Bricard women, it is stories of all those women across all generations who have been misrepresented, ultimately broken, and courageously picked themselves back up again.

How many girls ruined with words are strewn across the world? How many women caught in the middle of a song? In a dress? In a painting? In black type on white paper? Frozen in oil, in thread, in a C-major chord? But nobody, no woman, is one note, one colour – one fine strand of silk. p384.

Themes: : Fashion, Fashion Houses, Abandonment, Truth, History, Relationships, Family, Guilt, Secrets.

Kathryn Beilby