The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman

The Velvet Hours is a captivating story inspired by the real-life ‘time capsule’ apartment in Paris of Marthe de Florian that had remained untouched for 70 years. I remember reading about this some time back. The author Allison Richman has done a brilliant job weaving a fictional story of what she imagined would be the answer to the many questions that were opened with this ‘time capsule’ apartment.

The narration of the story is just unforgettable, but I especially liked the beginning that sets the stage for the story and the ending that wraps it up beautifully.

A lot of time is spent describing things like the paintings, the ceramics, the people, the apartment, which may slow the pace but I feel were important in describing Marthe de Florian as a person who is one of the important characters in the book. The story picks up the pace as the threat of World War II grows near.

The book alternates between the present life of Solange and the past life of her grandmother Marthe and the merging of the two lives forms the basis of the story.

I could not help but love Marhte's story and felt a deep need to understand her and her circumstances. And the author has delivered beautifully in giving you the sense of what it must have been for ordinary people facing the German occupation during the war.


This rich story of romance, history, and survival left me feeling happy content and sad all at the same time. If you love a well-written story about people, art, music all set against the haunting backdrop of World War II, this book is a must-read.


My rating is four stars.

Book Blurb:

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.