The author must have been inspired immediately to begin creating her character, April, a furniture specialist for Sotheby's. In the midst of a marriage in turmoil, April is sent to Paris to help catalog the exotic furniture. Instead of focusing on the furniture, she is entranced by the journals of the former owner, a demimondaine, or courtesan during the turn of the 20th century. The book alternates chapters between the life of 21st century April and 20th century Marthe who struggled to survive and thrive in Paris by attaching herself to rich men and falling in love with a struggling painter.
I loved the rich descriptions of the objects in the apartment and the even more vivid imaginings about the life that took place in the apartment.
Running parallel to the events in the journal, is April's own uncertainty about her marriage and her attraction to the French attorney representing the owner.
And a strand throughout all of it is April's love of Paris, a place that helped her avoid her own family's messy past. One of my favorite parts of the book was when the very controlled April goes to a nearby boulangerie:
A bell tinkled overhead. Though the smell was intoxicating enough to make even the pickiest of Parisians fret with indecisiveness, April knew exactly what she wanted. She tiptoed to the glass case.
Bonjour, les chouquettes, I've missed you.
Chouquettes. The perfect pastry. Puffed up. Light. They came in two versions, dusted with sugar granules or chocolate chips. April elected the sucre perle. If you were in Paris, your food might as well glitter.
She buys a dozen and gorges on them while immersed in the journals of the Belle Epoque. I love that the character is impulsive and a little out of control.
I also enjoyed the fact that the main character was well-respected expert in her field and didn't apologize for being a businesswoman, even when the Frenchman accused her of working too hard.
I zipped through this book, anxious to see what happened next.
I'd definitely recommend picking it up and whiling away some time in Paris.
If you live in the U.S. or Canada, make sure you enter to win a paperback copy at the bottom of this post. Good luck!
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.