After reading The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman for book club last January, I was pleased to find an audio copy of her newest book through my local library. I love reading historical fiction that includes some real life characters and storylines. The book was well-narrated and ALMOST made me look forward to my commutes.
Richman has weaved an engaging tale of love, beauty, resilience, desperation, loss and courage into this story set in France during WW2. Solange Beugiron meets her grand-mother, Marthe De Florian and begins recording her life story including the history of her stunning portrait which hung over the mantelpiece. Having been newly introduced to Marthe she learns more of her story with each visit and understands her life which began as the daughter of a laundress. To escape this harsh life and ensconce herself in a life of beauty and treasures, Marthe becomes a kept woman after giving up her only son for adoption.
As Solange learns about her patriarchal history, but about her late mother’s heritage. As she learns about her family history, she also learns about herself. Marthe’s life has been mainly contained to her apartment, with her beautiful things and carefully curated art while Solange has to make difficult decisions impacting her safety during WW2. Wartime history always makes the reader ponder the difficulties and despair of that era and makes the reader appreciate life and freedom.
I appreciated that the epilogue detailed the true story of an apartment in Paris which had been left untouched for 70 years. The rent had automatically been paid by Solange until her death. When the apartment was opened, it revealed important art including the painting described in the novel which is depicted in a video embedded in the link above.
Alyson Richman’s bio describes her as an accomplished painter and the recipient of a degree in art history and Japanese studies. Her knowledge and appreciation of art is blended into both The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours. The author is working on her 7th novel The Family Cloud and lives on Long Island with her spouse and 2 children. I have enjoyed these two novels and will be adding her other works to my growing TBR pile!