Monday Give Away
Remember that Paris apartment that was discovered a few years back? The home of a Belle Epoque courtesan, it had been closed by her granddaughter as the Germans marched on Paris and left untouched ever since. Who could resist that sort of fodder for fiction?
For today’s Monday give away, we have Alyson Richman’s The Velvet Hours.
Here’s the official blurb:
From the international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Garden of Letters, comes a story—inspired by true events—of two women pursuing freedom and independence in Paris during WWII.
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.
There is something fascinating about the relics of a bygone world, frozen in situ: an Egyptian tomb, Pompeii, a Paris apartment. Sometimes, it’s something smaller: an old postcard in an antique store, the message still on the back. A scribble on the flyleaf of a book.
Have you ever stumbled on anything that made you feel that kind of connection to the past?
The winner will be announced on Wednesday.
When i was a little girl i found an old bracelet in a branch when I was climbing a tree… It gave me countless hours of stories in my head imagining who it belonged to 🙂 I love your Monday giveaways, I haven’t won yet but I’ve ordered from the library every book and it’s been great reading 🙂
My great aunt gave me this small travel perfume set. It was beautiful! I always wondered who had owned it and the travels they had taken it on 🙂
I have a number of books and photo albums from my grandparents, and love finding little bits of stuff inside them: newspaper clippings, notes, dried flowers, even scrap paper used as a bookmark! It’s fascinating.
I purchased a men’s straw boater hat and discovered a name written on the inside of the hatband. Folded in between the band and the straw was a sheet of newspaper from a small town hundreds of miles away, dated 100 years ago. I imagined a young man (maybe a fledgling farmer) receiving a used hat from his father and folding that paper to make it fit better, then setting off to an ice cream social or church concert, hoping to find his favorite young lady and make her laugh.
Well I am a university student pursuing a career in archaeology, so finding material things with connections to the past is one of my favorite things! My family has a long history, but one of the coolest items that we own is a spinning wheel that was brought across America in a handcart to go to Utah with my Mormon pioneer ancestors. Having such a tangible piece of history was amazing. Certainly newer, my family also owns my great great grandmothers foot pedal sewing machine. It’s one of those that looks like a desk but there’s an inlay with the machine that flips up! I used that sewing machine to make a dress for myself and felt so connected to the generations of family members that have worked, whether for profit, or for family use, as seamstresses.
After my grandmother died at 97, going through her things, I found a chic, small, black clutch. Inside it had a matchbook from a NYC establishment that closed in the 50’s, so I imagine she used it in the 40’s or 30’s. I use the clutch now for special occasions, and it always makes me think of my grandmother as a young woman, having cocktails in a different NYC.
When we were cleaning out my grandparents house, I found a small silver pendant with my grandmother’s name engraved on the back. I feel close to her whenever I wear it.
I stayed with a great aunt for a week one summer, and we visited her sister and brother-in-law that lived several blocks away from her. I came upon some photos in their sitting room from their time of youth. (They were in their 80s when I was there.) I started tearing up. Don’t know why other than that my other great aunt had dementia and her husband worried about how to care for her. They were a handsome couple and childless. I was imagining what they were like when they were young. I treasured my time with them.
I came upon the poem “The Spider and the fly,” It took me back to my child hood and Saturday nights when my Grandma would tell me the poem. 🙂
My parents live on land that part of the Civil War was fought on. It’s awesome to find bullet fragments and other broken pieces from tools and other items they used. Almost makes you feel like you’re there too.
When we were kids we lived in rural Ohio. On one of our many explorations we came upon an abandoned farmhouse. The kitchen table was still set and the lace curtains were torn and hanging from the windows. Felt like the people just left and never came home. It still looked like 1940 something inside!
I wrote a whole book about that (two, really, although the second is still a WIP)… A letter (a proposal), received 44 years late, and not by the intended recipient.
A few years ago, a friend of mine had found in her mailbox a postcard, that was send a decade ago… it inspired me to write my book. So… in a way, you can say that I created that kind of connection with the past! 😀
I love antique stores for this very reason. I also love buying used cookbooks for the clippings/amendments/additions by the previous owner/s.
Shortly after we were married (and on a whim), my husband and I bought a 90-year old home in New Orleans far from our midwestern roots. The home wasn’t that big, but had 6 fireplaces – all plugged up to keep out the drafts. As we broke through the brick on one, a ton of soot and other bits came down… We ended up with some awesome sections of the 1945 Times Picayune – all about the war, job sections, rations, etc. We were too busy to do much with it then, but moved the remnants to TX with us following Katrina. Will make a great show and tell item for my sons one day.
My parents received as a gift a book about a famous Chinese artist in which there was a photograph of his graduating art class from college. One of his classmates was my grandmother. She had given up art after marrying and starting a family. i could only imagine what it must have taken for her to convince her family to send her to college. It really changed how I saw my grandmother.
Future archivist here. I got to work on a collection from a prominent family in early Austin, finding things like ladies’ guest books and documents related to the first car owned in the city! Apparently on a drive from Austin to San Antonio (~80 miles), it broke down 12 times but they didn’t seem bothered in the slightest.
This book sounds great! I’ll have to library it if I don’t win.
I’ve loved history for years-ever since my dad took me to the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln’s mom. I love finding old things and finding out new information about my parents’ past.
My grandmother was very religious. Every time I visit the Sacre Coeur, I become overwhelmed by her energy and a feeling of being wrapped up in her arms. It’s a different kind of connection, but it’s the only church I’ve visited that feels this way. I’d like to think this is where she chose to spend her time after passing.
I have a very delicate necklace given to my late grandmother by her brother for her 16th birthday in 1912. It’s too fragile to wear but a nice remembrance of her and her life on a Kansas farm in a very different time. Once a pilot landed a single engine airplane in a field on the farm she and her husband later owned. After he repaired the engine, he took her and then her husband up for a ride. They never actually rode in a commercial plane until the 1960’s!
While visiting Aix-en-Provence, I stopped at a bric-a-brac stall at a local fruit market. There, nestled next to some old copper pots, was a set of 12 linen pillowcases with my initials embroidered on them. I tried to not get too excited, and happily bought the lot. I often think of the woman who once owned them, and so carefully took care of them.
My mother recently gave me my grandmothers carved jade ring. Her brother bought it from an antique store in Japan sometime in the 40s. I have no idea how old the ring actually is but every time I wear it I wonder about who else has worn it.
I was given my grandmother’s wedding set. It is beautiful and delicate but I don’t ever remember seeing her wear it! She worked at a school and in a tile factory and didn’t wear jewelry much, but I am honored to have been given them for safekeeping! Thanks for the give-away!
My grandparent’s attic rooms were a treasure trove of old things. They kept everything and it was wonderful to explore.
Items my grandmother crocheted. It made me pick up a crochet hook and take some classes.
Many years ago I was an intern at the Smithsonian American History Museum. The division I was working in had acquired a small collection of nautical items that had once belonged to a family in Virginia. The items were purchased from a third party so we didn’t know the history of the items or the family. Term after term, interns were asked to try to find out about the family. And we all always called the same resources. I don’t know what I said to the woman that no one else has said before but she told me that a member of the family still lived locally. I don’t know whatever happened after that but it was still pretty cool.
My aunt lived in her husband’s family’s summer home built in the 1800’s when I was growing up. We would visit in the summer. The Barn and mill there were original to the property and my cousins and I would play there during the day. There were old tools and antebellum farm equipment in the barn. The family had kept the original carriage drive. It was like being transported to a different time whenever we would visit!
My grandmother died recently and we found some amazing old family letters from the early 1900s. It was such a trip to read my great-great relative writing about driving into town and buying a new phonograph! We also found some old pictures from the same time period so I could see the writers in their time.
My dad passed away in June and we found several pieces of family jewelry. It is nice to have a small bit of family history.
I work at a public library, and once in a while we find old “bookmarks” (letters, postcards, scraos of old magazine) in items in storage. It is interesting to see what people must have had on hand while reading…
My first book looked at court trials from colonial New England and my favorite Essex County, MA justice is Nathaniel Saltonstall who, among other things, was the only Essex county justice to denounce the Salem witch trials when they first started. I don’t know what he looked like because there are no surviving portraits. A defendant later in the 1690s who was not fond of Justice Saltonstall (for reasons which had nothing to do with the witch trials) is recorded as stamping up to the bench and announcing that the opinions of that carrot head meant nothing to him at all. I looked at that court record and thought Nathaniel Saltonstall must have had red hair and it was like suddenly having a window onto the seventeenth century.
My grandmother’s cameo takes me into the past.it reminds me of her and I often wonder about the times she wore it.
I have a necklace from my grandmother. It was given to her by her Godfather it always makes me feel connected to the past and my family.
I didn’t stumble upon, so much was given access to closets full of old dresses that belonged to aunts’ and my grandmothers’ on both sides of the family. So much fun to play dress up and make up my own stories to go along with the actual stories!
When going through my Mother’s hope chest it was interesting to see the things that my Dad brought home or sent to her from WWII. You could feel their connection to each other and my Dad’s service during the war.
After my mom passed away, I found a diary she kept when she was a teenager and it was so interesting to read her thoughts and experiences. Thanks so much for the chance!
I have a Victorian diamond ring that I cannot help but wonder what it’s life has been.
My husband’s grandparents recently moved from their home of 60 years to an apartment. As expected, there was a lot of stuff to go through. Perhaps my favorite is a collection of love letters sent between the grandparents during WWII and letters from grandfather to his mother, also during the war. It’s not my turn to read them yet, but I cannot wait.
Another item, from my husband’s other grandparents, is a book. The book itself is not particularly special, but the inscription uses his grandparents’ nicknames and is from early in their relationship. They are both gone now, and I loved Grandmother and Grandfather but I would have really liked to have known their twenty-year-old incarnations, Dot and PJ.
I don’t think I have.
I volunteer at a church-run Op Shop (Opportunity Shop, I think the American equivalent is Thrift Stores) and we get all sorts of interesting donations. The ones that make me sad are old photographs and postcards and family mementos, things that should be passed on and treasured and instead ended up in our donation spot. Just last week old photos came in from confirmations and baptisms (from the clothes some were from the 1920’s) and I couldn’t help but wonder about the names of all the children in the photograph and what happened to them.
Once we also got several boxes full of Girl Guide leader material going all the way back to the 1940’s, and slides in boxes with labels like ‘Susie’s Kindergarten Graduation’ and ‘Mary’s Wedding’. It was a treasure-trove of stuff, and luckily there was a local Girl Guide group who were keen to take the material and sort through it so what was important could be preserved.
When I acquire books from this Op Shop and I find a bookmark or something random between the pages, I always make sure it stays in that particular book. It seems wrong somehow to part the two objects that came together.
My mother gave me a heart-shaped bracelet my dad gave to her when they were newlyweds, many years before I came into their lives. Both of them passed away before I could get to know them as adults so this connects me to them in a different way.
It was such a pleasure to me to come across several books I had as a child, one that was a special favorite, read so much that the binding was broken. Also, I found some birthday cards I had received from grandparents as a child, and 25 years later still had birthday money in them.
Love these giveaways. This book really sounds exciting!