Friday Book Whimsy: The Paris Apartment

Lucy Foley was the author of a book — The Guest List about which I was somewhat ambiguous. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t like it. I recall that one of my biggest problems with that book was that I really didn’t like any of the characters. I have learned over my 60-some years of reading that it really helps me to enjoy a book if I like the characters.

I had somewhat of the same reaction to The Paris Apartment, a book by the same author.

The protagonist Jess is running from a crime she committed. She contacts her half brother Ben, a journalist who lives in a fancy apartment in Paris. He reluctantly agrees to let her stay with him for awhile. However, when she arrives, Ben is no where to be found. There are signs of a struggle, but no clues as to where he could be.

Jess begins trying to find her brother. The house in which the apartment is located is divided up into several apartments on different levels. Sophie and her husband Jacque are very wealthy, having made money from a wine empire. Nick lives on another floor, and has secrets of his own, including that he is gay. Antoine is an abusive husband whose wife leaves him early in the book. Mimi is quiet and mousy, and very much in love with Ben.

Jess suspects from the get go that each of these people have their own secrets, and the secrets are not good. Though they say they are willing to help her find her brother, it seems as though they all make finding him more difficult.

The storyline had flaws and inconsistencies, but the plot kept me reading. I tried very hard to figure out what happened to Ben and who among the group of shady characters was responsible for his disappearance. Some of the plot twists were predictable, but I will admit that the ending caught me by surprise.

I liked the book, but disliked the characters.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Invitation

28118525A lush and sultry novel that takes place partly in Rome and partly on a boat sailing the Italian Riviera? How can it go wrong?

The Invitation, by Lucy Foley, indeed not only does NOT go wrong, but it hits the mark by a mile. I selected the book because of its Italian location (in particular, the time spent in the Cinque Terre, which is my favorite spot in Italy), but I was surprised and pleased to find an elegantly written novel of love, intrigue, and survival in the days following World War II.

Hal is a struggling journalist who moves to Rome to try and forget what happened to him in World War II. One night, after crashing a socialite’s party, he meets the mysterious Stella. They have a wonderful night together, though she shares nothing about her life with him. This is part of her allure. They part the next day, never anticipating meeting again.

Later, the Contessa, who was the person who held the party and who took a liking to Hal despite the fact that he crashed her party, invited him to join her and friends on her boat that was going to make its way to Canne, where a film she financed was going to open. She asked him to be the journalist covering the story. Much to his surprise, he learns that Stella and her husband – a rich and powerful man who also is financing the film – are part of the group.

His interest in her is sparked once again, but this time he sees that she is a different person when she is with her husband. As the novel progresses, we learn Stella’s story, as well as just what happened to Hal in the war that impacted his life in such a profound way.

I loved the location, but I also loved the story and the characters. Hal seemingly bears the weight of the world. The Countess is wise and kind. Some of the more peripheral characters are interesting and funny. We learn Stella’s back story little by little via flashbacks, and see why she is so fearful of her husband. We even gain an understanding of what makes her husband seem so cruel.

The ending was, in my opinion, spot on. The Invitation was a great read that I can highly recommend.

Here is link to the book.