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A Paris Apartment: A Novel Paperback – June 30, 2015
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Shuttered for 70 years, the ninth arrondissement apartment is a treasure trove for furniture appraiser April Vogt. Plus, an extended trip to Paris allows her to avoid her troubled marriage. As April uses the diaries of Marthe de Florian to establish provenance of the pieces, she becomes obsessed with Marthe’s Belle Epoque exploits, her rivalry with Jeanne Hugo (Victor’s granddaughter), and her path from Folies Bergère bartender to renowned (if forgotten) courtesan. All the while, April struggles to forgive her husband’s infidelity, a situation not helped by the presence of Luc Thebault, the estate’s solicitor, who seems determined to make sure April doesn’t work too hard. Gable’s debut is strongest when Paris is the focus, whether it’s suffering a rude waiter at a corner bistro in the present day or dripping in jewels and furs and being bored by Proust in a café at the turn of the century. Some of April’s actions late in the book will render her unforgivable to many readers, so if sick parents and infidelity are red flags, pass on this one. Otherwise, vive la Paris apartment! --Susan Maguire --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“With its well-developed, memorable characters and the author's skillful transitioning between story lines...this stunning and fascinating debut will capture the interest of a wide audience but particularly those interested in stories about women behind famous men like Melanie Benjamin's The Aviator's Wife or Nancy Horan's Under the Wide and Starry Sky. Highly recommended.” ―Library Journal (starred review)
“The women's fiction world is lucky to welcome Michelle Gable to its ranks. In A Paris Apartment, Gable deftly weaves romance, mystery, past and present into a wonderful page-turner that will have readers clamoring for her next book.” ―Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author
“A Paris Apartment winds between past and present, between two passionate women and their lives, loves and fortunes. Informed and assured, debut author Gable's prose is fresh and emotionally complex. Glimpses into Parisian life, the arts, and the high-end antiquities trade are piquant accents to an exceptional mystery.” ―Sophie Littlefield, national bestselling author
“The past and present intertwine in Michelle Gable's sparkling debut, which sings of the Belle Epoque, French romance, and a few secrets that change everything.” ―Kristin Harmel, internationally bestselling author of The Sweetness of Forgetting
“A charming read about a fascinating history and the woman behind it.” ―Historical Novel Society
“Gable's Paris of today and yesteryear are worlds that are easy and pleasurable to get lost in. April's and Marthe's stories intersect, at times blatantly and at times subtly mirroring or contrasting one another. ...This parallel construction, the sense of place and atmosphere, and Gable's often witty writing are the book's greatest strengths.” ―The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Pick it up as the perfect escape--you'll quickly be whisked away through the vividly described scenery and events of life in Paris.” ―Spa Weekly Daily
“This debut novel is a keeper. It will definitely stay with you long after you finish the last page.” ―Chicklit Club
“The inspiration for A Paris Apartment began in 2010 when Gable's agent sent her an intriguing article with the note: 'I think you can do something with this.' A real-life Parisian flat, abandoned for 70 years, its contents frozen in time? Absolutely, she could.” ―Celeste Williams, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Love, art, history, Paris -- what more can you ask for?” ―FineBooks Magazine
“Vive le Paris apartment!” ―Booklist
“You'll be quickly drawn in...there are reasons galore why this story is compelling....A fun and insightful novel.” ―Maine Antique Digest
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Perhaps I had unrealistically high expectations - what a great story could be told -- the unopened apartment, the story behind the painting, Marthe and the time of the Belle Epoque. Then contrast that with the modern-day story of the antiques experts who must have been agog at the opportunity to research the priceless antiques and delve into Marthe's journals.
The actual Marthe started out as a bartender at the famous Les Folies Bergères, became an elegant courtesan known for having famous lovers, including a few prime ministers, a French president and the artist Boldini. Marthe left the apartment to her granddaughter, Madame de Florian, who shuttered the apartment and fled Paris at the start of WWII.
So, I was seriously excited to open this book and settle in for a good read.
The chapters alternate between Marthe de Florian's story told through fictionalized diary entries and April Vogt, a current-day American furniture expert from Sotheby’s who is called to Paris to help prepare the contents of the apartment for auction.
Marthe's storyline was at times fascinating and the author (thankfully) took much from her actual life -- how she created her name, her elegant persona and how she dug herself out of a brothel into the high class society during the Bell Epoque. In contrast, the modern day story of April Vogt reads like poorly written chic-lit. I found my self slogging through April's chapters and only somewhat enjoying Marthe's.
There is some magical writing - the description of the famous chandelier at Les Folies Bergères is wonderful. The Paris setting(s) are beautifully and deliciously described. However, Ms. Gable stumbles in re-telling Marthe's story, her diary entries seemed staged and she lets modern day language creep in. Sadly April is completely one-dimensional, so much so that this reader ended up disliking her character and her storyline was so predictable that I found myself imagining other outcomes. The novel borders on the raunchy and is written with such tactlessness that I cringed for the real Marthe de Florian. I found the ending almost ridiculous and in need of major editing - or perhaps, even completely deleted
Sigh -- The Paris Apartment gets many 4 and 5 star reviews on both Goodreads and Amazon, so I am in the minority here. (Perhaps you'll like this novel - go and seek it out if it interests you.)
Unfortunately, I wanted more -- more richness, more depth, better writing - not this breezy and shallow version of what in reality must have been a fascinating story. The discovery of the forgotten apartment and its contents, the true life story of Marthe de Florian -- they deserve a more intelligent telling
SEE ALL MY REVIEWS AT http://www.bookbarmy.com
There were a few unexpected twists, but mainly I was glad the book didn't follow the obvious line to the obvious conclusion. The historical story, revealed bit by bit, became more and more interesting, and it had its twist, too. Not all books which attempt this kind of format can do so successfully; they sacrifice one storyline in favor of the other being the 'more interesting'. But Gable balanced the two nicely here, and I found myself scooping up my Kindle constantly to keep reading the story.
I began reading this book because there really WAS an apartment in Paris that had been unopened for something like 70 years...and when it was opened, it was filled w nearly priceless art and furniture, mostly from the Belle Époch era.
But I really thought I wouldn't finish it when I was about 15% into it...didn't really like any of the characters very much, and it just felt like it was going to be a slightly better-than-average chick-lit romance.
And it kind of was.
But I DID finish reading it. And it turned out to be okay. The characters even grew more likeable, more nuanced...and the interesting 'discussion' about marital infidelity (would you really want to know if a spouse had slept w someone else if it wasn't anything more than a fling and was very unlikely to be repeated?) gave me pause for thought.
The ending was a bit of a surprise (not the auction of the contents, but the revelations of the surviving heiress), so that was a nice wrap-up.
And I learned many, many useful French phrases along the way, all presented in context which allowed even a non-French speaker to figure out what was being said. Best of all possible ways to insert a 2nd language into the text...and it was well done.
For a debut novel, it's pretty good; I'd give the book a B- You might find yourself wanting to know more (as I did), once you get about 1/3 of the way into it.