I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Set in Manhattan and Quebec City in 1943, Studio Saint-Ex is a fictionalized account of the love triangle among Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, his mercurial wife, Consuelo, and a young fashion designer. Mignonne Lachapelle leaves Montreal for New York to make her name, but is swept away by the charms of France’s greatest living writer. Nothing about their relationship is simple—not Antoine’s estranged wife who entangles Mig in her schemes to reclaim her husband, not his turmoil, and certainly not their tempestuous trysts or the blurring boundaries of their artistic pursuits. Yet the greatest complication comes in the form of a deceptively simple manuscript: Antoine’s work-in-progress, The Little Prince, a tender tale of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss in the form of a young prince fallen to earth.
Studio Saint-Ex is a deeply evocative love story of a literary giant caught between two talented and mesmerizing women, set in the glittering world of French expatriates in Manhattan during World War II. Reminiscent of The Paris Wife, Loving Frank, and The Rules of Civility, Studio Saint-Ex explores themes of love, passion, and creativity in sophisticated, literary prose.
I heard the author of this novel interviewed on CBC radio a while ago and was intrigued. I recently re-read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book The Little Prince and was inspired to try Studio Saint-Ex as a result.
I liked the book—I stayed up much too late the other night to finish it, unable to put it down. I know that many of the details are true—Saint-Ex did have a number of plane crashes resulting in serious injuries, he did spend time in the U.S. waiting to participate in WWII as a pilot, he did have a volatile, beautiful Salvadoran wife named Consuelo, they did live in twin penthouses in NYC, and he is reputed to have had affairs with young women during the time he loitered there.
This novel is told from the POV of one of these young women, Mignonne LaChapelle—her involvement with Antoine and with Consuelo as she works to break in on the fashion scene in NYC as a designer. How she uses them and is used by them during her pursuit of these dreams.
The ending was inevitable—history tells us that Antoine went missing during a reconnaissance mission in 1944, but the novel follows both Mignonne and Consuelo a little further. I am uneasy about the blend of fact & fiction—not knowing where facts leave off and the fiction begins. However, I certainly realize that this is well within the purview of the author and is fair game, it just left me with so many questions that I may have to seek out a biography of Saint-Ex in order to set my mind at ease.