Friday, October 28, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

Quite some time ago, a friend of mine lent me A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable. This past weekend I finally grabbed it from my toppling-over TBR pile to read on a long plane ride to a wedding. It was the perfect “travel” book. It’s also based on real-life Belle Époque characters so it fits into the historical fiction genre.

April Vogt, an auction house’s continental furniture expert, is in an unsettled marriage. Her husband, a Wall Street financier, recently admitted to a one-night stand with a coworker. She needs some time to herself to decide her next steps. Fortunately, she is summoned to Paris to sort and appraise the contents of an apartment that has been sealed for seventy years, an apartment chock-full of antique treasures, including a previously unknown portrait by Italian Belle Époque painter Giovanni Boldini. The subject of the painting was the French courtesan Marthe de Florian. Marthe was the one-time inhabitant of the apartment and all the treasures inside belonged to her – gifts from her lovers.

April is overwhelmed by it all, especially by a cache of journals kept by Marthe. Using the excuse that the journals will establish provenance for the articles in the house and thus raise their value, she dives into the life of the courtesan.

In the meantime, she begins to fall for the attractive French lawyer representing the estate, Luc Thébault. Luc is tricky to work with because he puts his client, one of Marthe’s descendants, first, but gradually the two become collaborators in the effort to uncover Marthe’s history. Also, Luc flirts with her and makes sure she doesn’t work too hard. He convinces her to enjoy more of Paris than just the dusty apartment. His attention gives her renewed faith in herself.

The book works in two timelines. The first follows April’s attempts to do the best job possible for her auction house, to learn as much as she can about Marthe, and to decide whether to dump her husband or work on the marriage. The second is told in Marthe’s voice through her journals. Marthe, one of the most sought-after courtesans of the age, is obsessed with the granddaughter of Victor Hugo and is in love with the painter Boldini. She’s a fascinating character.

One of the best things about the book is its Parisian setting. April adores Paris and shares the scenery, the wine, and the food with the reader so that you’ll end up wishing you were in Paris too. 

No comments:

Post a Comment