The Velvet Hours

Alyson Richman. Berkley, $16 trade paper (370p) ISBN 978-0-425-26626-7
In this exploration of sensuality, beauty, and the lives of heirlooms, two women narrate a rich tale set in Paris during the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2010, a time capsule of sorts was uncovered in Paris’s ninth arrondissement: an apartment untouched since WWII and filled with treasures of a bygone age. Richman (The Garden of Letters), in her fifth novel, fills in the details of this intriguing mystery by imagining the life and loves of the apartment’s real-life inhabitant, courtesan Marthe de Florian. On the eve of WWII, Marthe recites her adventures in the half-world of belle epoque Paris, where she began as an impoverished seamstress and ended up a demimondaine, to her granddaughter Solange, a budding writer. Solange has her own story to tell; the world she thought she knew is unraveling, and Solange’s mother recently revealed her Jewish heritage before dying. Hoping to understand her past, Solange takes a precious book from her mother’s collection to a rare book dealer. There she meets Alec, the son of the book dealer, and slowly begins to fall in love. Meanwhile, Hitler’s troops draw closer to Paris, her father is conscripted, and Marthe’s health begins to fail. Richman fills her novel with vibrant details (including some of the more juicy bits from Marthe’s real life), much as Marthe decorated her apartment: always with care, craft, and a sharp eye. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/26/2016
Release date: 09/01/2016
Ebook - 978-1-101-61580-5
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-5047-8416-0
Library Binding - 500 pages - 978-1-68324-311-3
Prebound-Glued - 384 pages - 978-0-606-39670-7
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