Saturday, 23 January 2021
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Lee Miller: The Inspiration Behind Jessica May

Added: 22.01.2021 21:39 | 2 views | 0 comments

As I mention in the Author’s Note at the back of The Paris Orphan, I first heard of Lee Miller when I was researching my previous book, . There was a throwaway line in an article that mentioned Miller and other female war correspondents who, after World War II had ended, had not been able to continue working as serious journalists because the men had returned from overseas and taken all of the available jobs.

It caught my attention. What would it have been like to report on a war and then come home to America and be assigned completely different work? After the war, Lee Miller was relegated to photographing fashion or celebrities during the winter season at Saint-Moritz. She was also an occasional contributor of recipes for Vogue.

That article was the start of my fascination with her. I went looking for more. And I found a story so incredible I couldn’t help but be inspired by it.

Miller the Photojournalist

Miller was a photojournalist for Vogue during World War II. She took some extraordinary photographs: she stumbled upon the battle for Saint-Malo in France and photographed the U.S. Army’s first use of napalm there. She reported from Paris, Luxembourg, Alsace, Colmar, Aachen, Cologne, Frankfurt and Torgau, among other places. She was one of the first to document the horrors of the Dachau concentration camp. And she was the subject of an iconic photograph, bathing in Hitler’s bathtub in his Munich apartment, having left her filthy boots to drop the dirt of Dachau, as she put it, all over the Fuhrer’s pristine white bathroom.

Miller the Model

But Lee Miller started on the other side of the lens. She was discovered by Condé Nast on the streets of Manhattan and became a famous model for magazines like Vogue during the 1920s. I decided to use this as the starting point for my character, Jessica May, as I was fascinated by that transition. How did a woman who was so obviously beautiful manage in the male and often chauvinistic environment of an army during a war?

Just as Condé Nast discovers Lee Miller, he also discovers Jess in The Paris Orphan and Jess is one of his favorite models, as Miller was. However, to suit my story better, I moved time forward to begin Jess’s modeling career in the early 1940s.

Miller’s modeling career ended when a photograph of her was used by Kotex in an advertisement for sanitary pads. It’s so hard to imagine that this could end a career, but it did. To be seen as the “Kotex Girl” was a stigma so dreadful that no magazine wanted to use pictures of Miller again. So Miller moved to France, where she became Man Ray’s lover. He helped her develop her photography skills and she became a well-regarded surrealist photographer.

I used these elements when creating Jess’s character too. Jess has to stop modeling after a photograph of her is used by Kotex, Jess has a French photographer as a lover, and solarization is a trademark of her work, as it was Miller’s.

The Intersection of Fiction and Reality

Miller actually reported for British Vogue during the war, although many of her pieces appeared in American Vogue too. For ease of the story, I have Jess working for American Vogue in The Paris Orphan.

Jess follows in Miller’s footsteps in The Paris Orphan, working out of a field hospital when she first arrives in France after D-Day. I have given the room used by Lee Miller at the Hotel Scribe in Paris to Jess, complete with a balcony piled high with fuel cans and an acquaintance with Picasso. Miller is called la femme soldatby the joyful Parisians after the city is liberated, as is Jess. Miller stays at Hitler’s apartment in Munich and is photographed in Hitler’s bath, as is Jess in The Paris Orphan.

After the War

One of the most heartbreaking parts of Miller’s story is what happened to her after the war. She suffered from post-traumatic stress after viewing and recording so many horrors, and she tried to forget that she was ever a witness to war and all its atrocities. So effective was she at excising this from her past that, when she died at age seventy, her son, Roland Penrose, had no idea of what she had done during the war. Her work was largely forgotten.

One day, Penrose’s wife found boxes of photographs and films in the attic at Farley Farm, Miller’s home. They contained Miller’s correspondence with her Vogue editor and wartime paraphernalia. Penrose immediately understood that he had made an incredible discovery, that his mother had been a true artist, and that her words and pictures had—once upon a time, until she let the world forget them—meant something.

He resurrected Lee Miller and her work. She is now widely regarded as one of the world’s preeminent war correspondents and photographers. The idea that she had been all but forgotten haunted me, and this inspired the scenes set in contemporary times in The Paris Orphan, when D’Arcy Hallworth finds an attic full of photographs and an extraordinary legacy that should never have been lost to the past.

Coronavirus vaccine delays halt Pfizer jabs in parts of Europe

Added: 22.01.2021 13:16 | 9 views | 0 comments

Some areas in Italy and Germany have to suspend vaccinations while they await Pfizer-Biontech deliveries,

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Buffelsdrift Farm / SAOTA

Added: 21.01.2021 21:00 | 2 views | 0 comments

The restoration of the ensemble of heritage buildings on Buffelsdrift, west of in the arid Klein Karoo region of the Western Cape, by SAOTA and Jaco Booyens Architect, a specialist in clay buildings, recently won the gold medal at the seventh edition (2019) of the international Domus Restoration and Conservation Award ( in Italy. The award recognises “excellence in the field of restoration, redevelopment and architectural and landscape recovery at an international level”.

Tags: Italy, Gold

Italy’s Renzi withdraws from ruling coalition, sparks political crisis

Added: 21.01.2021 18:18 | 34 views | 0 comments

Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has withdrawn his party from the ruling coalition, risking the collapse of the government and thrusting the country into political chaos in the midst of a surging coronavirus pandemic. Renzi announced the resignation of two cabinet ministers and a junior minister from his Italia Viva Party in a news conference on Wednesday, effectively...

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Milik set for Marseille move

Added: 21.01.2021 15:28 | 5 views | 0 comments

According to a recent report from Sky Italy, Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik is closing in on a move to Ligue 1 side Marseille. The belief is that he is due to leave for France imminently where he is set to undergo a medical, with Marseille having an obligation to buy for €8 million plus €4 million ...]

Tags: Italy, France, Mars
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[Ticker] Air pollution killing thousands of Europeans a year

Added: 21.01.2021 6:17 | 5 views | 0 comments

Reducing air pollution to World Health Organisation-recommended levels in the EU could prevent 51,213 premature death each year, or as much as 125,000 if regulators went beyond targets, according to a new study published in leading medical journal The Lancet Wednesday. Cities in northern Italy, Poland, and the Czech Republic had the highest associated mortalities. Some 2,500 premature deaths a year also occurred in Paris, the study said.

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[Ticker] Italian PM Conte wins confidence vote in Senate

Added: 20.01.2021 6:28 | 5 views | 0 comments

Italy's prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, on Tuesday won a confidence vote in the Senate, with 156 senators supporting him, 140 against, and 16 abstentions, after having won a vote in the lower house earlier. It ended a government crisis after a small coalition party, led by former prime minister Matteo Renzi, left the government. In a speech, Conte attacked Renzi for "placing mines" under the coalition in difficult times.

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250-Million-Year-Old Archosauriform Footprints Found in Italy

Added: 19.01.2021 18:02 | 1 views | 0 comments

Paleontologists in Italy have discovered an assemblage of fossil footprints left by an Early Triassic archosauriform. The archosauriform footprints were spotted at a paleontological site on the Gardetta Plateau in the Western Alps, Italy. Most of the specimens are preserved as natural molds on top of a 3-4 cm thick bed of fine sandstone. They [...]

Tags: Italy

Inter Milan 2-0 Juventus: Five Things We Learned

Added: 18.01.2021 9:55 | 4 views | 0 comments

Inter Milan moved level with league leaders AC Milan with a confident 2-0 victory against Juventus in the Derby D'Italia at the San Siro on Sunday evening. Arturo Vidal struck a priceless opening blow against his former team with a thumping header in the 13th minute before Nicolo Barella doubled the lead shortly after the ...]

Tags: Italy
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