Title: The Velvet Hours
Author: Alyson Richman
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "As Paris teeters on the edge of the German occupation, a young French woman closes the door to her late grandmother’s treasure-filled apartment, unsure if she’ll ever return.
An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe’s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path."
My Two Cents:
"The Velvet Hours" is a book told in two time periods. It is told during the Belle Epoque in the late 1800s and during World War II in the 1940s. After enjoying a couple of Richman's other books, I knew that I wanted to read this book without really knowing what it was about. Luckily, once again, Richman has put together a great story about family secrets and how things are not always the way that they seem.
We have two main characters here. There is Marthe, a woman who lives for beauty, who has a great love affair during the height of the Belle Epoque. Then there is Solange, a young woman who is just finding out her origins from her grandmother, Marthe. Solange is dealing with a different set of problems in trying to figure out whether it is better to wait out the war or to leave with her beau and his family where she knows she will be safer. The stories go back and forth between these two women and both of them are equally fascinating. I loved the juxtaposition of the two different time periods that the women were living and thriving in!
The writing in this book is indicative of why I keep coming back to Richman's books. She has a great way of weaving characters in with historical detail that feels like a treat for historical fiction lovers. This story was based on a true story about a real Solange who locked up her grandmother's apartment during the war, continued to pay for it while she was abroad, and the pristine apartment stuck in time was only found out in 2010 after Solange died and was no longer making payments on the house. It is a truly amazing story and I am so glad that Richman chose to capture it!