As Paris teeters on the edge of the German occupation, a young French woman closes the door to her late grandmother s treasure-filled apartment, unsure if she ll ever return. Read more...
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As Paris teeters on the edge of the German occupation, a young French woman closes the door to her late grandmother s treasure-filled apartment, unsure if she ll ever return.
An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path.
Inspired by the true account of an abandoned Parisian apartment, Alyson Richman brings to life Solange, the young woman forced to leave her fabled grandmother s legacy behind to save all that she loved."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-09-26
- Reviewer: Staff
In this exploration of sensuality, beauty, and the lives of heirlooms, two women narrate a rich tale set in Paris during the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2010, a time capsule of sorts was uncovered in Pariss ninth arrondissement: an apartment untouched since WWII and filled with treasures of a bygone age. Richman (The Garden of Letters), in her fifth novel, fills in the details of this intriguing mystery by imagining the life and loves of the apartments real-life inhabitant, courtesan Marthe de Florian. On the eve of WWII, Marthe recites her adventures in the half-world of belle epoque Paris, where she began as an impoverished seamstress and ended up a demimondaine, to her granddaughter Solange, a budding writer. Solange has her own story to tell; the world she thought she knew is unraveling, and Solanges mother recently revealed her Jewish heritage before dying. Hoping to understand her past, Solange takes a precious book from her mothers collection to a rare book dealer. There she meets Alec, the son of the book dealer, and slowly begins to fall in love. Meanwhile, Hitlers troops draw closer to Paris, her father is conscripted, and Marthes health begins to fail. Richman fills her novel with vibrant details (including some of the more juicy bits from Marthes real life), much as Marthe decorated her apartment: always with care, craft, and a sharp eye. (Sept.)