THE VELVET HOURS is captivating historical fiction inspired by the real-life Paris apartment of Marthe de Florian that sat untouched for 70 years. I remember being intrigued when the story of this “time capsule” apartment came out, and Alyson Richman did a beautiful job bringing it back to life.
The heart of the story is a grandmother telling her newly-found granddaughter about her eccentric life. Marthe was a courtesan during the Belle Époque, and she rose from poverty to become the owner of this lavish apartment filled with amazing treasures. Her granddaughter, Solange, is a struggling young writer looking for inspiration, and definitely finds it in Marthe’s tales.
At times I thought the pacing was slow, a lot of time was spent describing things – paintings, ceramics, and such – but the story picked up when the threat of World War II was upon them. It was here that the characters were truly challenged, and Solange learns from her grandmother that sometimes sentimentality must be sacrificed for a greater purpose.
THE VELVET HOURS is a rich story of history, romance, and survival, perfect for fans of late 19th/early 20th century fiction.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.