Book Review: Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy

Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy
Release Date: 3rd July 2014
Publisher: Transworld Ireland
Buy: Paperback Kindle
Rating:
5 star

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One beautiful dress is the key to three brave women’s destinies.

France 1919: Jessie is celebrating the last heady days of her honeymoon. But when her husband suddenly disappears she finds herself bereft. Until a chance encounter thrusts her into the centre of the intoxicating world of Parisian high life.

Hollywood 1945: Lisa has come a long way from her quiet, unassuming life in London and is taking Hollywood by storm. But all that glitters is not gold, and as the smoke and mirrors of the lifestyle she so longed for shatter around her there are some secrets she can never escape.

London 1965: Cat, headstrong and independent, drawn to danger and passionately opposed to injustice, has no idea of the legacy that precedes her. Once past secrets are unveiled, she has the chance to find out what liberty really means…

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Liberty Silk tells the story of three different women in three different time eras. Firstly we meet Jessie who finds her life in tatters when her husband suddenly disappears on their honeymoon, seemingly leaving her penniless, alone and also (although not yet to his knowledge) pregnant. It is Jessie who first owns the Liberty silk dress which plays not only a significant role in her life but also leads to the further happenings of the story, long after Jessie is no longer alive herself.
Then we are introduced to Lisa (or Baba as she is originally known.) Her story begins in 1939 as she dreams of becoming a famous Hollywood actress, or more specifically a ‘Somebody’ (as in somebody who ‘wears shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo, hats by Schiaparelli, diamond earrings and dances Cuban rumbas and Hungarian waltzes’…)
Then finally there’s Cat, who we aren’t introduced to until much later in the story. Blissfully unaware of her family legacy and exactly where she came from Cat discovers a talent for photography when she is younger and ends up becoming a successful photographer. Her job entails visiting notorious war zones and she is passionately fighting for justice in the world. However, when some of her family secrets are discovered she finds herself undertaking a new mission in life…
I was immediately enchanted by the synopsis of Liberty Silk. It sounded like a fascinating read, particularly as its set over three very different periods of time and told from the viewpoint of three very different characters. And what characters they were! I absolutely loved and admired Jessie, Lisa and Cat. They were strong, passionate and you can’t help but empathise with some of the battles they faced in life just to stay afloat. Particularly Jessie who I was often quite scared for. I found both Jessie and Lisa’s struggles heart braking and there are points in this novel where I can’t guarantee you won’t shed a tear. Nevertheless these three women are amazing.
The era’s that each characters story is set in makes for the ideal backdrop to the story. You have the terror and difficulty that Jessie faces when alone in Paris, the supposed ‘glitz and glamour’ of Lisa’s time in Hollywood which proves to be nothing but and then there’s Cat whose travels take her to the most traumatising war zones, then back to the comfort of her family home in Connemara, Ireland. I usually enjoy stories that are told from a number of different characters viewpoints and Liberty Silk was no exception to the rule. It was fascinating to watch the characters stories unfold through each other in the way that they did. Of course there is something which links the three women together but that’s not revealed fully until later in the story.

The other thing I really liked about Liberty Silk was how Kate Beaufoy successfully mixes fact and fiction into the story. There is a selection of famous figures that you are bound to recognise, we meet a young Picasso, the Fitzgeralds’s, The Beatles and even Coco Channel. We even bear witness to Jessie suggesting Channel name her new perfume ‘V – as in Number Five’ “It’ll never work.” Channel’s lover scoffs…

Another interesting aspect to this novel is that Kate Beaufoy was inspired to write Liberty Silk after finding letters originally written by her Grandmother, Jessie Beaufoy. Sadly Jessie died in 1985 but I found the conversation piece at the end of the book compelling and was amazed just how much of the story relates to the real happenings of her life. (You’ll see what I mean when you read it…)

I also really liked the quiz at the end which determines which character from you novel you are, especially having loved the characters so much, I found it a really fun touch (and my results showed I was Lisa…)

All in all Liberty Silk is a completely engrossing, gorgeous story. It may not be your typical romance but that’s all part of its charm. There’s fashion, drama, intrigue, everything you could want from a story and more. It’s the perfect tale to just completely lose yourself in. Beautifully written, it’ll take you on a heart warming, and at times heart breaking journey, which you won’t ever forget.

A huge thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy of Liberty Silk which I originally reviewed for Girls Love To Read.

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Kate BeaufoyKate Beaufoy has an MA in French and English literature from Trinity College Dublin.
As Kate Thompson she has had a dozen novels published, including the Number One bestseller The Blue Hour, which was shortlisted for the RNA award.
Liberty Silk is her first historical novel. It was inspired by real letters written from Europe by her grandmother, Jessie Beaufoy, in the aftermath of the Great War.
Kate has contributed to numerous publications and broadcast media in both Ireland and the UK. A former actress, she was the recipient of a Dublin Theatre Festival Best Actress Award. She lives some of the year in Dublin and some on the West coast of Ireland, and is happily married with one daughter. Kate is an advanced-level scuba diver, a wild swimmer, and the fond keeper of a bewitching Burmese cat.

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