8 reviews

A Paris Apartment: A Novel
by Michelle Gable

Published: 2014-04-22
Hardcover : 384 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 8 of 8 members
When April Vogt's boss tells her about an apartment in the ninth arrondissement that has been discovered after being shuttered for the past seventy years, the Sotheby's continental furniture specialist does not hear the words ...
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Bienvenue à Paris!

When April Vogt's boss tells her about an apartment in the ninth arrondissement that has been discovered after being shuttered for the past seventy years, the Sotheby's continental furniture specialist does not hear the words "dust" or "rats" or "decrepit." She hears Paris. She hears escape.

Once in France, April quickly learns the apartment is not merely some rich hoarder's repository. Beneath the cobwebs and stale perfumed air is a goldmine, and not because of the actual gold (or painted ostrich eggs or mounted rhinoceros horns or bronze bathtub). First, there's a portrait by one of the masters of the Belle Epoque, Giovanni Boldini. And then there are letters and journals written by the very woman in the painting, Marthe de Florian. These documents reveal that she was more than a renowned courtesan with enviable decolletage. Suddenly April's quest is no longer about the bureaux plats and Louis-style armchairs that will fetch millions at auction. It's about discovering the story behind this charismatic woman.

It's about discovering two women, actually.

With the help of a salty (and annoyingly sexy) Parisian solicitor and the courtesan's private diaries, April tries to uncover the many secrets buried in the apartment. As she digs into Marthe's life, April can't help but take a deeper look into her own. Having left behind in the States a cheating husband, a family crisis about to erupt, and a career she's been using as the crutch to simply get by, she feels compelled to sort out her own life too. When the things she left bubbling back home begin to boil over, and Parisian delicacies beyond flaky pâtisseries tempt her better judgment, April knows that both she and Marthe deserve happy finales.

Whether accompanied by croissants or champagne, this delectable debut novel depicts the Paris of the Belle Epoque and the present day with vibrant and stunning allure. Based on historical events, Michelle Gable's A Paris Apartment will entertain and inspire, as readers embrace the struggles and successes of two very unforgettable women.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


She only wanted to get out of town.

When her boss sidled up and said the words "apartment," "ninth arrondissement," and "a ton of nineteenth century crap," April instantly thought: vacation. There would be work involved, but no matter, she was going to Paris. As every writer, poet, painter, and, yes, furniture assessor knew, it was the perfect place for escape.

The Paris team was already there. Olivier was in charge. April pictured him right then winding through the apartment, tablet in hand, scratching out notes with bony, crooked fingers. He’d called in reinforcements from New York because they needed another appraiser, specifically a furniture expert, to bolster their shoddy credentials in that area. According to April’s boss the seven-room apartment held "enough pieces to outfit twelve upmarket bordellos." Peter’s expectations were low. April's were high, but for a different reason. In the end they were both wrong. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

How does the theme of women who they are versus who they want to be play into the novel?

Marthe and April are the book’s main characters but does it sometimes feel as though there are four characters between these two women?

April sees herself as rather plain: “Straight, dark, and tailored, made entirely of clean lines. The hair, the eyes, the nose: all casually assembled; unobjectionable basic pieces.” Later, April’s stepdaughter calls her tastes “a bit utilitarian.” Why, then, do you think she’s so attracted to the gilt and glamour of the apartment as well as Marthe’s life?

How do you think Marthe would describe herself in modern terms?

What role does the city of Paris play in the novel?

At one point, April mentions a large project she had in Texas. How would this story have been different if it had happened in the United States? Or even another part of Europe?

What does April find appealing about Luc? Do you feel she’s attracted to him much earlier than she lets on? What do you like about their friendship? What don’t you like?

How did you feel about the last scene of the book?

April admits early in the novel she doesn’t want children. Later her reasons come to surface. Do you understand her point of view? Do you think there are other reasons she’s unable to admit to herself, or to others?

Suggested by Members

Why did Marthe feel robbed of her birthright? Why did she hate Jeanne Hugo?,
What symptoms did Marthe develop as the result of exposure to lead in her whitening cream? Why was her appearance so important to her?
Have you ever put off having a medical test or making a decision because you are afraid of what the result would mean? How does April's brother Brian make her see that fear holds her back?
by [email protected] (see profile) 11/14/17

by msommer (see profile) 11/18/14

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Keep reading for snack menu and activities.
by [email protected] (see profile) 11/14/17
I served sparkling apple cider in plastic champagne flutes along with Pirouline wafer straws and Twix bars since April was caught between two men and two lifestyles.You could have wine and cheese, depending on your group. Pinterest and other sites have loads of photos of the time-capsule apartment in Paris, Giovanni Boldini's famous portraits, and pictures of Marthe de Florian. With my lap top and a projector, I included some of these photos to spur discussion of the novel. Maybe members of your group would like to be assigned a topic to research before the meeting. What landmarks in your own town or state were built during La Belle Epoque (1871-1914)? See photos of Paris in that time period. Talk about the tragic tent fire at the charity bazaar in 1897. How was Marthe's presence ironic? What other job opportunities were open to poor, uneducated young women in Marthe's day? To set the mood of the novel, I used a side table to display several fringed shawls, a reproduction French doll, old perfume bottles, a mini Eiffel Tower, antique-looking pins and necklaces, gloves, a cape, and a Victorian hat with flowers and feathers.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Marla T. (see profile) 04/02/20

  "Predictable, but historical fiction held it together"by Kim B. (see profile) 04/17/20

The historical basis of the novel was good, and had a lot of potential but the modern love story was extremely predictable. Also the characters were under developed. Wanted/needed to know m... (read more)

by Francine B. (see profile) 04/16/20

by Katie F. (see profile) 05/30/19

by Kat A. (see profile) 09/27/18

by Kim C. (see profile) 08/22/18

by Joy T. (see profile) 05/29/18

by Raejean B. (see profile) 02/26/18

  "A Paris Apartment"by La Juana M. (see profile) 11/14/17

April Vogt loses herself in Marthe's journals and her heirlooms. While April assesses her own situation, she has some personal revelations about her marriage through her relationship with Luc. She begins... (read more)

  "A Paris Apartment "by Marilyn D. (see profile) 04/28/17

Loved reading about this historic period and characters.

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