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A Paris Apartment
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|A Paris Apartment
By Michelle Gable
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date: April 22, 2014
Genre: historical fiction
from the publisher for a
virtual book tour on France Book ToursGoodreads
This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
A Paris Apartment is based on a true story that recently came to light: in 2010 I believe, a 7-room apartment was discovered in Paris, 9th arrondissement. No one had entered it in 70 years, and it was crammed with precious pieces of furniture from all kinds of periods and provenances, that the family finally wanted to auction.
This historical novel features April Vogt, PhD in art history, an American furniture assessor working for the Sotheby company. She is urgently called by her boss to go spend the month of June in Paris to prepare that auction. It might be also a good time to get away for a while from her husband Troy. After 7 years of married life, their situation is rather shaky.
When April enters the apartment, she not only finds amazing furniture, but also a painting her expert eye recognizes right away as a work of the most famous portraitist of La Belle Époque, Giovanni Boldini, and even more intriguing: a bunch of letters dating back to 1898. Avidly reading these letters, April connects deeply with this mysterious woman, Marthe de Florian, and finds in this unique experience messages for her own life. Let me tell you why this was such an amazing historical novel.
First, I really enjoyed how the author manages the connection between April’s present life and the 19the century: the flashbacks happen as April reads Marthe’s letters, and the transitions are always smoothly brought in. So instead of having abrupt changes from one chapter to the next, as is often the case, here one period leads naturally to the other.
I also enjoyed a lot Marthe’s character. She ends up being a courtesan meeting lots of very famous and colorful characters people in her life, artists as well as politicians.
Through her diary, you get a nice portrait of life at Les Folies Bergères, as she worked there as a barmaid; of the beginning of the famous restaurant Maxim’s; of the 1900 Exposition Universelle. You thus get a nice flavor of life in Paris at the time.
Marthe is so funny, and her critical eye is irresistible, for instance against Picasso; and the American absence of taste in art!
I really had great laughs reading her letters, especially as she speaks about the Hugos and Daudets, and mostly Marcel Proust.
You may remember I’m reading finally all of À la recherche du temps perdu (book 5 out of 7 right now), so of course my attention was piqued, and I can’t resist sharing with you what Marthe had to tell in her diary on Proust:
I also meet painters and poets, and writers, even pseudo writers such as that gossip-monger Marcel Proust. He thinks himself a master of words when he does nothing more than write a society column. What a bore he is!
And later on:
Proust told me… As delectable a piece of gossip as that is, I have a hard time believing it. Everyone knows Proust is filled with merde almost all of the time.
Proust claims himself a writer but it is little more than the city’s smallest rumor mill… Proust acts like a female better than most girls around. He was created with the entirely wrong sexual organs!
You will have to come back later to read Michelle Gable’s interview to know what SHE really thinks of Proust!
The author managed to create true to life and very diverse characters. April is certainly very different from Marthe, yet elements of her own life, her relationship with her parents, connect her deeply to this woman from the 19th century.
Getting to know Marthe at a deeper level, April has to fight to be sure Marthe gets the auction she deserves, where she will be recognized for who she was. But to achieve this, April needs to fight the commercial interests of her own company. Will she be feisty enough?
The descriptions of Paris and French food were awesome, and made me wishing to be transported there right as I was reading the book.
And there’s the typical very flirtatious French attorney, Olivier… Quite annoying for April at first. Will she manage though to resist his charm?
I also enjoyed a lot the big surprises coming about family relationships, how Marthe, Jeanne Daudet, and Agnès Vanier, you will have to discover who is she, are all related.
The final scene of the auction itself was beautiful, with more surprise about why actually this auction was requested.
The only things I did not appreciate were a few problems with the French language, for instance Marguerite most often written as Marguérite, and the adjective used in the masculine form, heureux [pronounce: eureu], instead of the feminine form heureuse [eureuzz] when talking about Marthe.
I will soon post an interview of the author! Be sure to come back, it should be really good!
VERDICT: In the company of the furniture assessor April, go spend a month in Paris and get to know with her a remarkable woman who lived their at the end of the 19th century. This fascinating historical novel will open a new world to you, with messages that may give you a new lease on life.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER!
Bienvenue à Paris!
When April Vogt’s boss tells her about an apartment in the ninth arrondissement that has been discovered after being shuttered for the past seventy years, the Sotheby’s continental furniture specialist does not hear the words “dust” or “rats” or “decrepit.” She hears Paris. She hears escape.
Once in France, April quickly learns the apartment is not merely some rich hoarder’s repository. Beneath the cobwebs and stale perfumed air is a goldmine, and not because of the actual gold (or painted ostrich eggs or mounted rhinoceros horns or bronze bathtub). First, there’s a portrait by one of the masters of the Belle Epoque, Giovanni Boldini. And then there are letters and journals written by the very woman in the painting, Marthe de Florian. These documents reveal that she was more than a renowned courtesan with enviable decolletage. Suddenly April’s quest is no longer about the bureaux plats and Louis-style armchairs that will fetch millions at auction. It’s about discovering the story behind this charismatic woman.
It’s about discovering two women, actually.
With the help of a salty (and annoyingly sexy) Parisian solicitor and the courtesan’s private diaries, April tries to uncover the many secrets buried in the apartment. As she digs into Marthe’s life, April can’t help but take a deeper look into her own. Having left behind in the States a cheating husband, a family crisis about to erupt, and a career she’s been using as the crutch to simply get by, she feels compelled to sort out her own life too. When the things she left bubbling back home begin to boil over, and Parisian delicacies beyond flaky pâtisseries tempt her better judgment, April knows that both she and Marthe deserve happy finales.
Whether accompanied by croissants or champagne, this delectable debut novel depicts the Paris of the Belle Epoque and the present day with vibrant and stunning allure. Based on historical events, Michelle Gable’s A Paris Apartment will entertain and inspire, as readers embrace the struggles and successes of two very unforgettable women. [provided by the author]
PRAISE FOR A PARIS APARTMENT
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michelle Gable is a writer and also a mom,
wife, financial executive, sports-obsessed maniac (Go Chargers! Go Aztecs!),
Southern California native, barre class fiend, tennis player,
and card-carrying member of the Chickasaw Nation.
She grew up in sunny San Diego
and attended The College of William & Mary,
where she majored in accounting as most aspiring writers do.
Throughout a career that started in public accounting
and then moved to private equity, then investment banking,
and ultimately to the head of FP&A for a publicly-traded software company,
Michelle continued to write. And write and write.
Her first novel was released on April 22, 2014, her second scheduled for Spring 2016.
Michelle currently resides in Cardiff by the Sea, California, with her husband,
two daughters, and one lazy cat.
Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK YET?
Any other good historical novel you read set in Paris?
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Excellent review, you make my review look like an abandoned step child. I really enjoy this book, good stuff.
I love your image lol, but don’t agree with it. I liked your review, and you mentioned things I didn’t. that’s why a blog tour is great!
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As I rack my brain to find a good example of historical fiction set in Paris, I find my reading experience wanting. Or rather, I am coming up blank because I am not fluent in French or Spanish and can never get the level of insight into works in those languages as I can into a work originally written in English. Thus, most novels I read are set in the English speaking world.
The fates are definitely castigating me for my failure to pursue my study of French further because the only story I can think of reading in recent memory that took place in Paris is Sarah’s Key by Tatiana Rosnay, which IMHO, is a mediocre novel altogether. It serves me right; I’d no doubt have read some great Parisian tales if I were a bilingual reader of literature. 😉
BUT the good news is there are lots of GOOD/GREAT historical novels written/translated in English that take place in France/Paris/Versailles! We actually have one on France Book Tours for December, in case you would want to review it: http://francebooktours.com/2014/09/29/jeanne-mackin-on-tour-the-beautiful-american/ Paris in the 1920s
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