A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
Pub. Date: April 22, 2014
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!!)
Summary: When April Vogt’s boss tells her about the discoveries in a cramped, decrepit ninth arrondissement apartment, the Sotheby’s continental furniture specialist does not hear the words “dust” or “rats” or “shuttered for seventy years.” She hears Paris. She hears escape.
Once in France, April quickly learns the apartment is not merely some rich hoarder’s repository. Beneath the dust and 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. And then there are letters and journals written by the woman in the painting, documents showing she was more than a renowned courtesan with enviable decolletage. Suddenly it’s no longer about the bureau plats and Louis-style armchairs that will fetch millions at auction. It’s about a life. Two lives, actually.
With the help of a salty (and annoyingly sexy) Parisian solicitor and the courtesan’s private documents, April tries to uncover the secrets buried in the apartment. As she digs into one woman’s life, April can’t help but take a deeper look into her own. When the two things she left bubbling back in the States begin to boil over, April starts to wonder whether she’ll ever find—in the apartment, or in her life—just what she’s looking for.
Genre: Contemporary, Historical Fiction
Had I not started reading A Paris Apartment rather late in the evening, I would have finished in a single sitting. Michelle Gable has crafted a wonderfully detailed, intensely engaging, and SUCH a readable novel – and it’s her debut!
April Vogt’s life is at a crossroads; her husband recently came clean about a one-night stand while away on a business trip and the revelation sent April reeling. Not only was she not expecting the news, but now she’s not entirely sure she wants to work things out. When her boss announces a treasure trove uncovered in an old Parisian apartment, April leaps at the chance to see it in person. As a specialist for Sotheby’s, she has a professional interest in the pieces, but she’s also looking to escape, to think.
What April finds in the apartment is nothing short of mind-blowing. The previous occupant (nearly a century ago!) was akin to a courtesan, entertaining fabulously wealthy men – and apparently she kept every single gift. There’s jewelry, pottery, paintings, furniture. There are also diary entries and as April dives deeper into Marthe’s life, she comes to realize just what she wants out of life.
A Paris Apartment is delightfully easy to read – from the very beginning I found myself slipping away from my couch and into Paris. If you know me, you know I’m ALL about dual narratives, especially when those narratives cross time periods. In this case, there’s April in the present: a woman reeling from her husband’s infidelity and not quite sure if they really should make an effort to save the marriage, and Marthe de Florian in the late 1800s: orphaned and determined to rise above her lowly status. As is usually the case with novels like this, I come to prefer one storyline over the other and my feelings for these women surprised me a bit!
Initially I was drawn to April’s story. Her husband betrayed her (and he was certainly made out to be an appalling jerk) and in an attempt to think things over she takes a job in Paris. April was a fairly likable character, though I took a shine to Luc, the estate’s lawyer. I have to admit Luc reminded me of Jamie from The Other Half (not entirely sure why – unhappy marriages/cheating themes?), but that wasn’t a horrible thing. Luc was charming and funny, particularly when trying to use American phrases and idioms. Roughly halfway though, however, I came to look forward to Marthe’s chapters and the story of her childhood was fascinating – definitely a story I’d love to read on its own!
As the pieces come together and the storylines interweave, I found myself completely sucked in and enchanted. While A Paris Apartment wasn’t flawless, it was thoroughly entertaining and I was entirely invested in their characters and their lives. I wanted the best for Marthe. I wanted the Sotheby’s auction to be a success. The Parisian setting was merely an added bonus, but what a lovely bonus it was. A Paris Apartment is the perfect novel to reach for during these rainy spring days – it makes for a wonderful escape and is certainly a story worth getting lost in!