The Velvet Hours

The Velvet Hours

by Alyson Richman

Overview: From the international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Garden of Letters, comes a story—inspired by true events—of two women pursuing freedom and independence in Paris during WWII. 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.

Inspired by the true account of an abandoned Parisian apartment, Alyson Richman brings to life Solange, the young woman forced to leave her fabled grandmother’s legacy behind to save all that she loved.

Judy Stanton (02/08/18): Having read and enjoyed The Lost Wife and heard the author speak at the Book Festival, I wanted to read The Velvet Hours. Now, I wish I had read it before hearing her speak, because she said she had heard from someone after the book came out with more information...and now I want to know!!! Why would someone who was given such an amazing apartment in Paris never visit it, even after the war was over...or at least tell her children. That's a real mystery. I enjoyed Alyson Richman's writing style, the book kept calling me back wanting to know what would happen. I felt she did a good job developing the characters and making the story believable. Her descriptions of the apartments, the clothing and the jewelry all added to an enjoyable read. I will definitely read more of her books.
Rating: ****

Jodi Roberts (10/04/16): If I had but one word to use to describe this book, it would be sumptuous. The true story of a living time capsule opened 70 years after its door closed for the last time is gloriously brought to life in this fiction, based on a true story. The details of the very sensual and evocative owner, Marthe De Florian and her far less flamboyant granddaughter, Solange, are splendidly and imaginatively portrayed during the La Belle Epoque and World War II. Solange, a budding writer, is introduced to Grandmaman (Marthe) on the eve of World War II. Solange spends many afternoons with Marthe, learning of the older woman's past and how she came to be in this apartment surrounded by many objects of beauty.

It is such an intriguing story as the very subject of the apartment is true, having been opened in 2010 after its 91 year old owner passed away. Indeed, the original owner was a woman named Marthe De Florian, who was among the demimonde and a well-known courtesan in Paris. Her granddaughter, Solange (also real) was the owner who died at age 91. Ms. Richman has taken the bones of a mysterious reality and added back details of a luxuriant lifestyle during the Epoque.

The mystery of the story caught me, the resplendent details of Marthe De Florian's lifestyle, clothing and sensual nature are what kept me reading. A novel sure to be enjoyed by many.
Rating: *****

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