Paris Time Capsule…
New York–based photographer Cat Jordan is ready to begin a new life with her successful, button-down boyfriend. But when she learns that she’s inherited the estate of a complete stranger—a woman named Isabelle de Florian—her life is turned upside down.
Cat arrives in Paris to find that she is now the owner of a perfectly preserved Belle Époque apartment in the ninth arrondissement, and that the Frenchwoman’s family knew nothing about this secret estate. Amid these strange developments, Cat is left with burning questions: Who was Isabelle de Florian? And why did she leave the inheritance to Cat instead of her own family?
As Cat travels France in search of answers, she feels her grasp on her New York life starting to slip. With long-buried secrets coming to light and an attraction to Isabelle de Florian’s grandson growing too intense to ignore, Cat will have to decide what to let go of, and what to claim as her own.
For me, Paris Time Capsule is a novel that ticks all the boxes: likeable characters, a mystery from the past, a beautiful setting, some romance, some humour, some history, and an irresistible Frenchman. It was quite perfect actually!
I adored the premise of this novel: a decadent Paris apartment abandoned and untouched for 70 years. And while this story is fiction, the apartment is not. I was only a few chapters into the novel when I couldn’t resist any longer; I had to Google this mystery apartment and get a look at it for myself. There are many images of Marthe de Florian’s apartment online and viewing them was like eye candy for a history buff. Here’s a little sample:
The portrait is of Marthe de Florian, painted by Giovanni Boldini. Many of the treasures pictured in the rooms above are mentioned in the novel. Absolutely extraordinary and a fascinating basis for a novel.
What started out as intriguing for me, continued on at a good pace with an engaging story right the way through. While I couldn’t wait to have the mystery solved – why the apartment had been left untouched and then willed to a stranger while family still lived – I was absorbed enough in the daily minature of the characters to not want the ending rushed. The dynamic between Cat and Loic was quite special, right from the outset. Cat’s fiance, Christian, and his persistent American crew, added plenty of humorous moments, although there was a point at which I was willing Cat to just turn off her mobile phone in place of answering every intrusive call. But she got there in the end, and in discovering the mystery surrounding the apartment, she was able to discover a fair bit about herself along the way.
The most special part of this novel for me was the uncovering of the big mystery. I rarely hear or read of a story from WWII that doesn’t touch me – I have personal family connections that always weigh in – but this one in particular left me reeling and wishing that Ella Carey had gone with a dual time frame narrative instead. I would have appreciated more of the WWII story in hindsight. I love this quote towards the end of the novel. Not only does it sum up the reasons behind the apartment being abandoned, but it sums up what every single person who lived through WWII in Europe must have felt like throughout their lives after. I have removed the character’s name and inserted ‘she’ to avoid spoilers.
“She never trusted the world in which she lived after that war. Like so many others, she did not trust that she could share what had happened with those she loved – she didn’t believe they could understand the decisions that had to be made at that time unless they had lived through the terrible period themselves.”
My grandfather had felt the same way. I was fortunate enough to have had him confide in me about some of his WWII experiences before he passed away, but I know he held a lot of it back. Extraordinary lives and extraordinary people.
Paris Time Capsule was my first Ella Carey novel, but it definitely will not be my last. She has great talent as a storyteller and I highly recommend this novel and will be endeavouring to read her others as soon as possible.
Paris Time Capsule is book 57 in my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.