- Title: The Velvet Hours
- Author: Alyson Richman
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Pages: 384
- Published: September 2016 – Berkley
- Source: Publisher; Tandem Literary
Description: 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.
My take: In 2010 a Paris apartment that had been closed for seventy years was opened to reveal a time capsule of sorts. Found inside were objets d’art from the Belle Epoch and earlier eras as well as many other valuable items. The Velvet Hours is the imagined story of the woman who owned the apartment and her granddaughter.
Alyson Richman’s story of Marthe de Florian and Solange Beaugiron captured me from the start. The descriptions of, well, everything was gorgeous and gave me the feeling I was sitting in the room with the characters.
Solange didn’t know she had a grandmother until she was nineteen and her father took her to meet Marthe. Upon their introduction they met a few days each week and Marthe told Solange about her life. It’s a remarkable story about a remarkable time and involves art, books and romance. I loved it all. Equally intriguing but less developed than Marthe’s story was the story of a book passed down on Solange’s mother’s side of the family. I’d love to read more about it in a separate novel.
Until The Velvet Hours I’d never read one of Alyson Richman’s novels. I was happy to discover she has six other books that are now on my to-be-read list. I can easily recommend The Velvet Hours to fans of the author and historical fiction.
Note: You can search online for Marthe de Florian and you’ll find photos of her apartment as well as the portrait highlighted in the novel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alyson Richman is the internationally bestselling author of the The Garden of Letters, The Lost Wife, The Last Van Gogh, The Rhythm of Memory (previously published as Swedish Tango) and The Mask Carver’s Son. Her novels have been translated into eighteen languages and are known for their rich historical and artistic detail. She lives in Long Island, New York, with her husband and two children.
PRAISE FOR THE VELVET HOURS:
“Alyson Richman’s writing sings in her evocative new novel set in Paris at the dawn of World War II. The Velvet Hours is a beautiful and compelling portrait of two women facing their unknown past and an unimaginable future as their world begins to crumble.”
— Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale
“Alyson Richman deftly weaves fact and fiction to create an enthralling tale of love and sacrifice in The Velvet Hours. Richman slips flawlessly between time periods, her sense of place in depicting Paris in the 1880’s and 1940’s spot on. The reader navigates the streets of the City of Light alongside Solange and Marthe, two carefully crafted and worthy heroines. The author does a superb job of creating a Paris apartment full of exquisite treasures and a priceless painting, a world of light and shadow, beauty and darkness. Ultimately, this is a carefully wrought story of love, of what the heart chooses to give up, and what it chooses to keep. Highly recommended to readers who enjoyed Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale.”
—Karen White, New York Times bestselling author
“A masterful mix of the glamour of the Belle Epoque and the shadows of impending war as the stories of two generations twist and twine together in delightful, heart-wrenching, and sometimes unexpected ways.”
— Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author
“Staggeringly evocative, romantic, heartrending, sensual, and beautifully written.”
—John Lescroart, New York Times bestselling author
“Tragedy and hope, love and loss, and the strength to endure are examined through Richman’s graceful writing and powerful characters.”
“If you love graceful, mellifluous writing, you should read this book.”
—Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author