Christine's Reviews > A Paris Apartment

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
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Feb 27, 2015

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The true story …

In 1942, just before the onset of WWII, Madame De Florian closed and locked the door to her apartment in Paris and fled to the south of France. Although all expenses and upkeep were paid, the apartment was never rented and Madame De Florian never returned to it. Almost seventy years later Madame died at the ripe old age of 91 and the existence of the apartment was discovered. As the auctioneer tasked with taking inventory of the contents opened the door he realized that he had just opened the door to a time capsule. Covered in dust and untouched for 70 years were priceless antiques, untold treasures and some items of pure whimsy.

From a newspaper account of the discovery … “Under a thick film of grime, investigators found themselves transported to early 1900s Paris during the height of the Belle Epoque, when the city was celebrating its cultural renaissance and de Florian's grandmother was the talk of the town. Books and newspapers lined the shelves, gold curtains draped the windows, and a luxurious dressing table held hairbrushes, perfumes, and candle stubs that seemed to await the return of a very glamorous noblewoman. Against floral wallpaper and wainscoting, a stuffed ostrich draped with a shawl stood above two pre-war stuffed animals—a very retro-looking Mickey Mouse and Porky the Pig. The formal dining room, with a low-hanging chandelier over the table, wood stove, and stone sink, was still fully stocked with glassware and pots and pans.

It was, one of the inventorying experts said, like “stumbling into the castle of Sleeping Beauty.”

By far the most extraordinary find was an unknown painting by Giovanni Boldini, which through letters and correspondence, was proven to be a portrait of Madame De Florian’s grandmother, a prominent Parisian les demimondaines.

The actual location of the apartment was never made public and more information has not been forthcoming.

The book …

This is the taking off point for Ms. Gable’s novel. April Vogt works as a continental furniture specialist and because she speaks French is dispatched, on behalf of Sotheby’s, to catalogue the contents of the apartment. She has no idea what she is about to step into. To everyone else it looks like an episode of Hoarders covered in dust and while workers drag items out to be sold as a lot at auction April discovers a hidden cache of letters and diaries. She is quickly immersed in the life of the enigmatic les demimondaines who once inhabited this apartment and takes the reader with her to late 19th Century Paris. As April learns more and more about the apartment’s former inhabitant she comes to realize that every piece in the apartment has a story and a history that make it unique … and very valuable.

I found the original story about the apartment fascinating and would most definitely read a non-fiction account of this discovery; Ms. Gable’s novel serves as the next best thing. She obviously did her research and has written an interesting work of fiction based on actual fact. It was the apartment that captivated me. I was less enthralled with April’s struggling marriage and possible love affair, or as a matter of fact with most of the characters, but they were the white bread that carried the caviar, so I had to take the good with the bad.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 1, 2014 – Finished Reading
February 27, 2015 – Shelved
February 27, 2015 – Shelved as: 2014-reads

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