Pub. Date: July 12, 2016
Source: ARC + finished copy via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: Born into a wealthy Parisian family at the center of Belle Epoque society, 18-year-old Aimée Savaray dreams of becoming a respected painter in the male-dominated art world; and secretly, she also dreams of being loved by Henri, the boy her parents took in as a child and raised alongside her.
But when Henri inexplicably disappears, in the midst of the Franco-Prussian war, the Savarays’ privileged lives begin to unravel. Heartbroken, Aimée tries to find him, but Henri doesn’t want to be found—and only one member of the family knows why.
As Aimée seeks refuge in the art world, mentored by the Impressionist Édouard Manet, she unwittingly finds her way back to Henri. With so many years gone by and secrets buried, their eventual reunion unmasks the lies that once held the family together, but now threaten to tear them apart.
Genre: Historical Fiction
A few years ago I discussed my love of art novels. Novels of painters, novels of paintings, rediscovered masterpieces, forgeries, you name it, I’ve read it. (Since that post I’ve furthered my obsession – there might be a part two on its way!) There’s just something so romantic about art that instantly calls me to it and Girl in the Afternoon is no exception: when it arrived unannounced at my door one day, I was immediately intrigued with its talk of scandal and France and Manet.
Aimee Savaray and Henri were raised as siblings after her wealthy parents took the boy in as a child. As they grew they developed a passion for drawing and painting and over time, that constant closeness led to passion elsewhere. A secret kiss, a whispered I love you and suddenly Henri was gone without a trace. Try as she might, Aimee slowly realizes that if Henri doesn’t want to be found, there’s nothing she can do to change that.
Art brings Aimee both comfort and sorrow and it’s under Edouard Manet’s training that she stumbles upon a clue that could lead her back to Henri. With their reunion, however, comes long-held secrets that could destroy the family and tear them apart for good.
I inhaled this book. From page one I lived and breathed its words, its imagery. The relationship Aimee and Henri had as children – they know the other better than they know themselves – to the afternoons spent sitting for one of Manet’s paintings, everything about Girl in the Afternoon was so rich and vibrant that it felt as though I was watching a movie instead of reading.
The circumstances surrounding Henri’s disappearance were definitely shocking and scandalous and the numerous attempts as reconciliation were all too heartbreaking. Naturally I loved every minute.
This is a fairly haphazard, slapdash review, but know that I though Girl in the Afternoon was stunning. With its fantastic setting to the secrets and lies scattered through these characters’ lives, I was absolutely captivated and tore through this debut! This was one of those rare novels where, when I wasn’t reading it, I was counting down the minutes until I could get back to it. I swooned, I gasped, I was thoroughly enchanted.