A Paris Apartment

Written by Michelle Gable
Review by Jessica Brockmole

Furniture specialist April Vogt is glad to be called to Paris to appraise the contents of a long-shuttered apartment, at the very least because it’s an escape from both her troubled marriage and her complicated family situation. But the apartment proves to be more intriguing than merely an escape. Closed up since the beginning of WWII, it is full of priceless pieces of furniture and works of art, including an arresting portrait of by one of the masters of the 19th century. April discovers a set of diaries, written by the woman in the portrait, Marthe de Florian, a renowned courtesan who rubbed elbows with all of the luminaries of Belle Époque Paris. Unlike her fellow appraisers, she sees the diaries as more than just provenance to add value to the forthcoming auction. As the Paris of the past comes alive through Marthe’s diaries, April is drawn in. The apartment is less a repository of furniture and more the repository of a life.

Dual time period novels are tricky; one of the stories is often more compelling than the other. In A Paris Apartment, Marthe threatens to steal the show, with an engaging voice and antics worthy of the tabloids. But, though April’s story is made of quieter moments (and one gorgeous Frenchman), it carries the reader along. She looks to Marthe’s passion and confidence to shore up her own. Two very different characters, yet both carry the novel with their own strengths.

Gable was inspired by the real find of Marthe de Florian’s apartment in 2010, full of treasures untouched for seventy years. A charming read about a fascinating history and the woman behind it.