Member Reviews

Madeleine Moreau is a French Opera singer, she wants keep her position as the leading lady at the Paris Opera House and where her husband Henri is the conductor. Yvonne Chevallier is talented, younger and her main rival and Madeleine doesn’t want her taking the spotlight. Madeleine is invited to sing at Germany’s Bayreuth Festival, she’s honoured and then she discovers Adolf Hitler will be in attendance, she knows she’s made a big mistake and Madeleine flees.

Yvonne finds herself given the main role, her voice is sublime and it soars, and at the after party she tries to hide from Adolf Hitler and Winifred Wagner. Unfortunately Yvonne is cornered, a newspaper photographer takes a group shot and it looks like Yvonne’s gazing at Hitler in admiration, it’s not true and she despises the man. Yvonne has no idea this one moment will change her life and what people will think about her and her career.

The Germans invade Paris, both Madeleine and Yvonne must decide what they will do to survive, keep their loved ones safe and to sing at the Paris Opera House.

I received a copy of The Paris Understudy by Aurélie Thiele from Alcove Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Wow, what an amazing debut novel by the author, it starts in 1936 and ends in 1948 and is based around real facts.

The narrative’s set in Paris during the Second World War, it’s a well written and engrossing story about survival and sacrifice, resilient and strong women, good versus bad, and an unlikely alliance. Five stars from me, and it made me think what I would do if I was in the main characters situation, did she have a choice and I admired her courage.

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The Paris Understudy is the story of two opera singers and the choices they have to make — or fail to make — when Paris is occupied by the Nazis. Yvonne is a nobody struggling to “make it” while Madeleine is at the top of her game, the most famous opera singer in Paris, and is also determined to keep Yvonne off the stage. Until Madeleine learns that Hitler will attend her performance in Germany; then she beats a hasty retreat and Yvonne ends up thrown into the limelight.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing is beautiful and it’s easy to sink into the French world. Author Aurélie Thiele is French American and the book reads like it was well-researched. I often found myself rooting for the characters to make the right choice even when they seemed utterly trapped.

The pacing is quite slow, but the characters are fascinating and the Nazis made my skin crawl. It was an unexpected, great read.

Thank you to Alcove Press and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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“The Paris Understudy” by Aurelio Thiele is a throughly engrossing novel about Opera Diva Madeleine Moreau and newcomer Yvonne Chevalier. The story takes place in Paris during Germany's occupation of France during WW2. The two women travel to Germany where Madeleine is to perform at a coveted German festival when she is told Hitler will attend. Without informing anyone she leaves the country and understudy Yvonne is forced to make her debut and becomes an instant sensation.

The story is about the horrible choices these two women were forced to make in hopes of preserving their art form, and to survive. The ruthlessness of the Nazi domination over these women and the French people was palatable on every page. This was a view into the war which I did not know before and was captivated by the honest and beautiful way it was written. The authors notes at the end are a must read!

Thank you NetGalley and Alcove Press for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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A historical fiction novel about the rivalry of two French sopranos during the French occupation of Paris in WW2, The Paris Understudy is as enchanting a story as it is complex as it explores just how far a person will go to protect the ones they love when everything is at stake.

The story opens at a voice competition at a conservatory where the primary protagonist, Yvonne Chevallier is singing in hopes of beginning her opera career and impressing her heroine soprano, Madeleine Moreau. Feeling threatened by her stunning performance, Madeleine, the paradigm of diva, insists the award go to another. Yvonne, not knowing of her betrayal, waits for Madeleine and asks for advice on how to pursue her career in opera and Madeleine offers her the position of her understudy, without any intention of ever letting her sing.

Two years later, Yvonne is little better than Madeleine’s servant, and her career seems permanently stalled when by chance, they travel to Germany where Madeleine will sing a coveted role as the first French woman to sing the principal soprano in a German festival. At the last moment, she discovers Hitler is to be in attendance at the premier and without so much as a warning, Madeleine leaves Yvonne to sing as understudy. Disgusted and left with little options, Yvonne makes her debut far behind enemy lines. Hitler dubs her an enchantress and a photographer snaps an infamous photo of the two of them for the following days papers. France is collective repulsed by this image and upon return home, Yvonne is ostracized and Madeleine’s role as the lead female soprano is secured.

Years later, when Yvonne discovers her son is a POW, she will stop at nothing to save him- even if it means consorting with the loathed Nazis. There was so much I wanted out of this story, and without spoiling the ending, I found most of my questions answered in the author’s note at the end. I was tremendously impressed by the writing and how effortlessly I found myself cheering for both Yvonne and Madeleine despite their fierce rivalry. The ending was such a bittersweet thing- it’s one that will sit with me for a while. I’d have loved for it to end differently on at least one score, but c'est la vie. Life is rarely simple or easy.

I’d like to thank Alcove Press and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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I read a few chapters. Put it down. Picked it up again. There was so much personal drama in the life of a character I wanted to see succeed ... that I couldn't read it all at once.

For all the underdogs, those pushed back time and time again, this is your story. Enjoy! Get ready for a lot of tears and sighs - and getting your hopes up.

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The Paris Understudy was a solid four star World War II novel for me. I always love when an author writes about an aspect of WWII that I haven't already encountered, and Thiele succeeded with that. Interstingly, I struggled with the main character Yvonne, and after reading the Author's Note at the end, I can understand why! Thiele based Yvonne on real life French opera singer Germaine Lubin who sang for Hitler as Yvonne did in the novel. But as Thiele points out, after reading Lubin's memoirs, she actually was NOT an interesting character in real life, because she was single-mindedly concerned only with her singing career and expressed no remorse for associating with Nazis. As a result, Thiele attempted to make Yvonne a more complex character who was conflicted about her decisions. I felt as though she was just a very wishy-washy character though, and I didn't necessarily feel as though her thoughts and choices were authentic. In my opinion, the character of her son Jules was similar but on the opposite end of the spectrum - being so staunch in his extreme choices that he felt a bit flat. The most convincing character from my point of view was Henri - completely and believably spineless. Overall, I found The Paris Understudy an interesting read. I feel like it needs to come with accompanying music!

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The Paris Understudy is a story of 2 women opera singers during WWII. One, Madeleine Moreau, is a diva and has been around for quite some time. The other, a younger woman, Yvonne Chevalier, is just starting out and wants to make a name for herself before she gets too old. The story takes place in Paris and in Germany and focuses on the relationship and rivalry between the two women. It also shows the choices one makes during the war; to side with the German army ( Nazis) or try to stay true to the French and then what happens after the war. At times the story gets bogged down and seems to repeat itself. The characters are very defined; at times you want to love them and other times despise them for their actions.

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Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. The story of two opera singers, Madeleine Moreau, a diva in her declining years and her understudy Yvonne Chavallier a younger woman desperate to obtain star status before she herself gets to be too old. This story takes place mostly in Paris during World War II with some of the story taking place in Germany, the book focuses on the relationship between these two women , their rivalry, their respect for each other, the choices each one makes during the war with ultimate outcomes. This was a good story, it seemed a bit slow in the beginning but then the paced picked up and became very interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

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I really enjoyed reading this book. The setting was very immersive and it was very well researched. I would highly recommend this book.

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