Mireille by Molly Cochran | Rating: ★★★★★
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
There’s just something about the leading lady in Molly Cochran’s unique, scandalous and intriguing new novel Mireille. I’m fairly certain that it is my favorite release of the year so far and I cannot wait to get my hands on a physical copy of my own. Mireille is my latest favorite and hands down the most deliciously tragic novel of 2015.
Readers will know exactly what I’m talking about within the first few chapters of such an incredibly written story, it blew me away instantly. I’ll note now, though, that there are many moments in this novel that will be triggering for many that count sexual abuse, mental illness and suicide, and violence as their triggers. Please, please, keep this in mind before reading.
Back to the review…
We get to know Mireille from a very intimate outlook of her life and know almost instantly there is something captivating about her even at such a young age. It is a quality you cannot miss. Our story starts with an idea of what becomes of this beautiful woman at some point in her future and then watch briefly as she grows up in an environment so toxic, it’s a wonder she’d made it out alive.
With hints of historical fiction, a glimpse into a story that parallels Cinderella in a unique manner and nods to the Life of prostitution, Mireille holds your attention from start to finish and pulls you into a glamour of sex, tragedy and one day acting. It’s soapy but also has a deep and serious quality to it.
Mireille’s life is filled with tragedy from a very young age: first, the loss of her mother, then her father and lastly her first love Stefan. It’s in these tragedies, and the birth of her daughter, that we come to love Mireille as a friend. There are so many sides to her and it was a truly pleasant read to watch as she grows before our eyes.
You want nothing more but to protect her from all that is bad in this life and are buckled into your knowledge of what is to come. Mireille sparkles and shines throughout even the darkest of times in her story and is intriguing, overall lovely and a completely wonderful object of our affection. We watch as she escapes an abusive upbringing, after being cornered by her disgusting and Nazi supporting stepfather and watch as she is briefly reunited with childhood friend, Stefan.
There’s a whole mystery to Stefan but we see a good heart in him even though we only see him for a small window of time. After a short amount of time spent with one another, Mireille and Stefan’s love grows strong.
In a time of war, things often seem rushed but the passion that springs from the two is everything. Tragically, not so long after they make love for the first time, Mireille is left with the loss of yet another loved one and an uncertain future. It is said that Stefan has died and you feel Mireille’s pain so severely, it breaks your heart. Cochran portrays the loss of love beautifully and realistically.
During the months that follow, our narrator finds herself virtually alone and comes upon more than a few complications. Fortunately for her, she is able to find a temporary home and job. Again, all things are temporary – and life certainly isn’t kind to this delightful young woman. Months later, she gives birth to her daughter – the only thing that keeps her going and the only tie she has to her beloved Stefan.
After a painful birth and an overall tricky path, she finds herself in a place that could perhaps be her home. Fate has another idea and blocks her path to a stable sort of happiness. Mireille’s strength and determination rarely waver and she proves to us time and time again that she’s going to make a good life for her daughter. Or at least, she hopes to.
Following a disastrous attempt at getting a job, she is given an option that many women have followed through on in the past. A man offers her some cash in exchange for a night of sex – after some serious hesitation, Mireille sees no other option for her life’s direction and goes through with it. She struggles momentarily with all this and then makes a decision: this will be her career.
You understand her choices and why she must make them the way she does and find her to be very sympathetic. During the next few years you worry for this wonderful woman, who fate seems to want nothing but to destroy her. She’s always struggling with something and it’s horrific. You watch as she provides her customers with the identity of l’Ange and provides her daughter with as much of a normal upbringing as she can.
Stephanie is her entire world and the only reason she continued to live the Life. Fortunately for her, she finds a friendship with another prostitute named Barbara – their scenes are some of the best, most lovely of the novel and I truly appreciate their relationship with one another. B adds something of a light hearted tone to such a dark story and is absolutely one of the best characters in the entire novel.
During this time, she encounters a man – Oliver Jordan and for the first time in many years, not since Stefan, you see her fall in love with him only to be let down. Of course, Oliver is not a good man and leaves her heartbroken on more than one occasion. He is a massive part of the book from that point on and is truly a scumbag.
Years pass and trouble arises in Mireille’s life once more. Barbara has left behind the career of prostitution and the two are virtually strangers now, leaving Mireille friendless.
Complications from her work rise up after having left her career as a prostitute and she winds up in a little trouble. Her identity is exposed to the press. And sadly, she must part ways to her beloved daughter Stephanie and sends her away to a boarding school to keep her out of the spotlight and out of danger. It’s heartbreaking to see mother and daughter separated and from this point on, things are bound to be strained between the two.
Fortunately for young Stephanie, she isn’t alone at her school – she finds a friend in another young girl, who is only a few years older than her and clearly troubled.
Mireille then meets her soon-to-be husband after reuniting with Barbara and landing a gig in a movie directed by this man. Mireille feels no real connection or interest in the man, but he seems nice enough at first and she will go to almost any means to have a stable life so she can bring her daughter home. He promises to take care of her and that Stephanie will be able to move into their new home in the states, insisting his career is about to kick off in all the right ways.
He proves to be an absolute creep in the long run and none of his promises fall through. Oliver Jordan reenters the picture at this point and begins to mold her into Hollywood royalty – which is quite easy given her beauty and mysterious quality. Oliver is manipulative and cold, completely obsessed with Mireille that you can see the darkness in him growing and growing throughout the novel as he proves time and time again that he believes he owns Mireille. And truly, he will make your skin crawl.
Years and years pass and Mireille unfortunately has not been able to fully reunite with her daughter. It isn’t that she doesn’t see her from time to time, she just isn’t able to be a good mother because of her career – all of which she keeps doing to protect Stephanie. After tragedy strikes a teenage Stephanie and her best friend dies, there comes even more of a gap between mother and daughter.
The struggles just keep happening for Mireille and her daughter; Barbara makes a reappearance in a startling way. Gone is the beautiful, funny and confident woman Mireille once new and in her place is a woman lost and addicted to drugs. It’s heartbreaking to see this and in her own way Mireille tries to take care of both her friend and her daughter; eventually bringing the three together.
Of course, all good things end…
I won’t spoil it. I’m already spoiling a lot it’s just that I can’t not talk about it. I’m positively gushing about this luxurious read. It’s effectively consumed me.
Tragedy continues to strike but Mireille soon discovers that it’s possible Stefan hadn’t passed away like she’d originally thought. She spends a great deal of time dodging her career and the press of it all, bated on more than one occasion by the disgusting Oliver Jordan, in hopes to be reunited with her one true love. And then, when all hope is nearly lost, she finds him – Stefan is alive and for the first time in years, Mireille believes she can finally have it all… a family.
Oliver, of course, won’t have that. So she has to let him go. Let go of her daughter once more. Let go of her biggest shot of happiness in years.
He is not about to lose his biggest success story.
You see the darkness rise in him in all new disturbing ways as he tries to keep her all to himself. Mireille is his in his mind and he goes to extreme lengths to prove this to her, repeatedly abusing her mentally, blackmailing her until a physical altercation (by this I mean he rapes her and nearly strangles her to death) leaves her nearly dead and still under his thumb. Mireille finds a friend, however, in one of the men who she has worked with in film for years – and he genuinely has her best interests at heart; nursing her back to health and sticking close to her at appropriate times.
Just when she thinks she’s settled a deal with the dangerous Oliver Jordan, it’s apparent she has not – he will never let her go willingly and he is willing to use her beautiful daughter as something of a pawn. He has the mind to seduce the teenage girl and draws an even bigger wedge between mother and daughter. Stephanie is young and feels she’s in love and believes that her mother is only jealous of this. She’s a very broken young woman due to the loss of her best friend, the loss of Barbara and the fact that her mother rarely sees her. It’s easy to see why she believes all that Oliver tells her when the only light she seems to have in her life is her father, Stefan and his visits.
We see the story reach a climax as Oliver brings serious harm to Stephanie before he reaches his end – Stephanie kills him. It’s a massive ah-ha! moment that is dramatic and traumatizing but very fulfilling. In this moment, Mireille turns herself in as the killer to protect her daughter and convinces everyone that she did it. Stephanie doesn’t handle this very well; all things become clearer to her after Oliver’s betrayal and the discovery of her mothers previous career. All these years and all the tragedy that this young girl has seen recently take its toll on her.
Instead of running from her demons, Stephanie – with the help of her father – turns herself in and her mother is cleared of all charges. It was great to see how the story was handled and that the ending had a happy one because these characters deserved it, truly. It was nice seeing the parallels between Mireille and her daughter as both grew older; they are different people and it makes sense to see their stories unfold the way that they did. I’m very pleased that Mireille was able to get her chance at a stable life and as far as we know, was able to maintain this.
Stefan, Mireille and Stephanie go on to be the family they were always meant to be and I think that it makes all the bad worth it. We see the villain get what was long coming to him and even though our story was laced with loss, it was still painted beautifully. We see a clear picture of Paris and many places; a romantic and luxurious feel to balance out the hell that each character goes through and I cannot applaud Molly Cochran enough for the way she told this story. Mireille is hands down one of my favorites books of the year and I recommend it 100%!