(Review) The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman

Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Berkley, Penguin Random House
Genre: Fiction
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 384
Source: Self-purchase
Rating: Excellent

I remember reading about and seeing the photographs of an apartment in Paris that had been entombed since 1940. I wondered then if an author would pick up this true story and write their own story piece. At the time of the news story, I imagined who must have lived in the apartment? I wondered why they left and never returned?
Link to read information on the real Marthe de Florian and the abandoned apartment.

Marthe de Florian, painted in 1888 by Giovanni Boldini
Solange Beaugiron, lives with her father in Paris, France. Her father is Henri Beaugiron, a pharmacist. Solange met her grandmother, Marthe de Florian, in 1938. Her father had not mentioned this grandmother until Hitler was advancing through Europe. He had little to do with Marthe. He had been raised by another women, whom he'd known as his mother. His world, and the world of Marthe, were opposite in every way, and he was never interested in her kind of life.
During the time Solange and Marthe spent together, Solange wrote down Marthe's life story. Marthe was born in the 1800's. She was born into a humble existence. She worked for a while as a seamstress. She dreamed of wearing the beautiful clothing she'd seen. She went to work as a chorus girl and this brought the attention of an admirer. Marthe's life dramatically changed.
Solange is intrigued by the mysterious grandmother who shares stories from her life.
It wasn't that I found the two women to be similar, but I did find them to compliment one another. Solange did not hold a grudge against Marthe. She did not judge Marthe. She found her to be fascinating and full of life. Marthe was a curiosity, and Solange made the most of this opportunity to "interview" her remarkable grandmother.
What I loved most about this story is the bond between the two women. There was a surprise for both of them at their relationship. Solange had not known about Marthe. Marthe never intended to be an active grandmother.
I loved their joy in being together.
I loved Solange learning about life and love through her grandmother's life story.
I loved it that Solange and Marthe had each other during a difficult time in their lives.
I quickly fell in pace with the story at the first page. Marthe took a chance at a life many women of her time would harshly condemn. By making the choice at this different kind of life, she gave up the chance to have the set standard. However, later in life she was given a chance to have family. For this aspect, the story is endearing.
After reading The Velvet Hours, the emphasis of love is on romance. A larger than life, swept-away romantic type love. Another type of love is in this story too: the love between a grandmother and her granddaughter.


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