Category: Artwork Provenance

+Blog Book Tour+ A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable : A #histfic narrative wrapped up in the mystery of art & antiques

Posted Sunday, 5 October, 2014 by jorielov , , , 6 Comments

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A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

Published By: Minotaur Books (@MinotaurBooks), (a Thomas Donne book)
imprints of St. Martin’s Publishing Group, which is now a part of MacMillian Publishers
Official Author Websites:  Site @MGableWriter | Facebook

Available Formats: Hardback, Ebook

Converse via: #AParisApartment & #FranceBT

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Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “A Paris Apartment” virtual book tour through France Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher St. Martin’s Press, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

Somewhere in my wanderings on Twitter recently in the bookish realms I frequent, this particular novel came up in a conversation! Then, if I am remembering correctly it was broached in the book blogosphere (of which I am also a participant), so you could say, my interest has become piqued!

I believe I also came across this book not just in Shelf Awareness but on another bookish site recently, as I remember my musings when I first read the premise! To take a real-life mystery and purport it into a fiction telling of ‘what could have been’ I think was a smashing idea on your behalf! I love when writers dig into the realm between fact & fiction, as much as a mystery which involves around art and antiques. Within the silence and the hours in-between what is known and what needs to be found is good folly for a story to inhabit as it allows your lead character to grow and seek what they are intuitively striving to locate as well.

As you can gather from my initial reactions on behalf of A Paris Apartment, I was quite excited about the prospect of not only reading the story but in the realisation of what the story involves! I had contacted the author directly in April of 2014 as there was a bookaway through Shelf Awareness inasmuch as she was visiting #LitChat for a bookish topical discussion that I was quite keen on attending. This was one of those rare moments where everything felt as thought it were set to rights and serendipitously aligning to work out quite well. I have appreciated each and every writer I have become introduced too through #LitChat, as much as I appreciate the ability to write personal notes to the authors who host bookaways through Shelf Awareness, as I love making personal connections to the writers I am finding myself encouraged to read. It brings the book industry closer to home and it allows the writers to get to know their readers a bit as far as who is keen to see their books in print and who is itching to read them once they are released. I find it to be quite the lovely circle of positivity and creative acceptance of the living arts.

What struck me the most about this particular novel is how remarkable the backstory set within its perimeters truly sounded as you delve into the make-up of the circumstances of the ‘apartment’ in question. Or rather, I ought to be saying ‘the flat’ in question!

My singular regret is that I had to postpone my tour stop until I recovered from a horrid stomach flu and by having the hours dissolved off the clock, I had to forfeit my opportunity to interview the author. I was so chuffed it had worked out I could interview her and then, as the fates so happened to align I missed the chance afterall.

+Blog Book Tour+ A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable : A #histfic narrative wrapped up in the mystery of art & antiquesA Paris Apartment
by Michelle Gable
Source: Author via France Book Tours

THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER!

Bienvenue à Paris!

When April Vogt’s boss tells her about an apartment in the ninth arrondissement that has been discovered after being shuttered for the past seventy years, the Sotheby’s continental furniture specialist does not hear the words “dust” or “rats” or “decrepit.” She hears Paris. She hears escape.

Once in France, April quickly learns the apartment is not merely some rich hoarder’s repository. Beneath the cobwebs and stale perfumed air is a goldmine, and not because of the actual gold (or painted ostrich eggs or mounted rhinoceros horns or bronze bathtub). First, there’s a portrait by one of the masters of the Belle Epoque, Giovanni Boldini. And then there are letters and journals written by the very woman in the painting, Marthe de Florian. These documents reveal that she was more than a renowned courtesan with enviable decolletage. Suddenly April’s quest is no longer about the bureaux plats and Louis-style armchairs that will fetch millions at auction. It’s about discovering the story behind this charismatic woman.

It’s about discovering two women, actually.

With the help of a salty (and annoyingly sexy) Parisian solicitor and the courtesan’s private diaries, April tries to uncover the many secrets buried in the apartment. As she digs into Marthe’s life, April can’t help but take a deeper look into her own. Having left behind in the States a cheating husband, a family crisis about to erupt, and a career she’s been using as the crutch to simply get by, she feels compelled to sort out her own life too. When the things she left bubbling back home begin to boil over, and Parisian delicacies beyond flaky pâtisseries tempt her better judgment, April knows that both she and Marthe deserve happy finales.

Whether accompanied by croissants or champagne, this delectable debut novel depicts the Paris of the Belle Epoque and the present day with vibrant and stunning allure. Based on historical events, Michelle Gable’s A Paris Apartment will entertain and inspire, as readers embrace the struggles and successes of two very unforgettable women.

Read about Marthe de Florian

Places to find the book:

Genres: Biographical Fiction, Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction


Published by A Thomas Donne Book

on 22nd April, 2014

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 384

Author Biography:

Michelle Gable

Michelle Gable is a writer and also a mom, wife, financial executive, sports-obsessed maniac (Go Chargers! Go Aztecs!), Southern California native, barre class fiend, tennis player, and card-carrying member of the Chickasaw Nation.

She grew up in sunny San Diego and attended The College of William & Mary, where she majored in accounting as most aspiring writers do. Throughout a career that started in public accounting and then moved to private equity, then investment banking, and ultimately to the head of FP&A for a publicly-traded software company, Michelle continued to write. And write and write. Her first novel {A Paris Apartment}was released on April 22, 2014, her second scheduled for Spring 2016.

Michelle currently resides in Cardiff by the Sea, California, with her husband, two daughters, and one lazy cat.

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A catacomb cache of antiquity and art:

As we first cross the threshold of a locked away apartment in a section of Paris which begets instant recognition, we step properly inside April’s shoes — seeing everything her eyes drink in and with a deep appreciation for finding items of art once thought to either be lost or nonexistent altogether. As I lamented on my ruminations on behalf of Lost in Thought, I have always been a bit piqued in apt fascination for the history of antiques and the items from estates cast back into the world via emporiums and boutiques where everyone can find something they fancy to collect or gather for their own homes. There is a particular keen attraction to having a sense of a living legacy of a singular life attached to the item, as a vehicle of immortality in the sense that someone’s essence was entwined with the piece. Touch is a sense most convicting for our sensory perceptions – it allows us a tangible connection to what cannot be seen but rather felt and thereby internalised on a deeper level of awareness. There was a true catacomb cache of antiquity and art held within the walls of the apartment time and history were kept unawares in knowing about; and within that cache held a curiosity of a person not easily understood nor quenched once her life was brought out into the open.

My Review of A Paris Apartment:

As soon as April mentioned being in need of ‘catching a redeye’ my mind flickered backwards into my own past whereupon I stranded myself in the Pacific Northwest simply due to a mild curiosity over controlled rock climbing walls & a certain outdoors expedition store called REI. I daresay I was always an adventurous lass, but to forfeit my return flight and had to opt instead for the redeye — wells, there are times where I question my own sanity! My reverie continued whilst observing her ‘techniques’ to pinch out every spare inch of her suitcase for ‘necessities’ she’d need on her holiday; the memories of my own ingenuity of achieving the same impossible task left me inside of a smirk!

April’s fragmented life is in a reckless disarray filt with disillusion and an honest sense of being caught in flux; betwixt the present and the future whilst unresolved about the past. Her life is a fitting juxtaposition to the apartment by which she is hired to sort and recover what has been left behind to be found. Her emotional health is a frayed rope of nerves, and whilst she finds herself drawn into the legacy of Boldini and of Madame Florian, it nearly felt as though she were searching for a resounding clarity that would give credence and enlightenment to her own life.

The time shift sequences giving us a jolt of Madame de Florian’s life as she transcribed it down into her diaries was a rare and exquisite treat. Yet one of the surprising twists of everyday life for me in the modern area of the story, is when it was disclosed that dog walkers do not pick up after their animals have taken care of business. It is a well-known fact that no one can walk their dogs (or in some rare cases their cats) without the courtesy of removing what is left behind for someone not to unexpectedly walk through it. I had no idea that Paris has a problem similar to Venice as far as a stench of foulness emitting out of a situation that is containable. It gives a new dimension of awareness I had not yet stumbled across and had me left wondering how you can truly appreciate walking the streets if there are more little ‘surprises’ to be found along the sidewalks? I agree with April on this note on how indifferent it would be to have the joy of being in the city replaced by a bit of furrowed discontempt of such an everyday difference of living.

I felt the energy of the first half of the novel started to muddle towards the middle bits, as April’s suspicious nature towards her husband’s past infidelity was starting to grow a bit old as the old ‘dialogue’ continued to play out. I think it would have been best if she had been more honest with herself that she had already taken an exit out of her marriage. Although, truth to life, perhaps she was not yet aware of what she wanted and thereby had this disconnection growing larger between her and her husband simply due to distance and lack of direction to take next. Even Madame de Florian took a bit of a backseat, and the joy of the art discovered in the apartment ended up being bogged down by bureaucracy and red tape. The further I read into the story, the more crude the humour ended up becoming or rather the more crude the direct references were to the story’s internal threads. I was a bit aghast to find this happening, as foresaid the beginning had such a sprite of energy and sophistication, and watching everything start to derail before my eyes was not something I enjoyed. If I were to be honest, it felt as though there were two halves of a whole and they were not equally connected.

The cheeky humour and the intricacies of Michelle Gable’s writing style:

Gable has an intrinsic method of revealing the well-established stigmas attached to Americans whilst on holiday in France as much as she has a clairvoyant way of using cheeky humour to establish the short tolerance Americans feel in return. The French have always had a certain level of discontempt for Americans, as even I have found this to be threaded through conversations during intermittent connections I’ve had with them, yet what always struck me the most off-character about the whole absurdity of this tension between the countries is how genuine Americans love France and everything most decidedly French! And, for those of us who are of French descent directly, it is a curious stone to overturn. I honestly believe this is due to a disconnection between us: a break down in communication or at the very least an understanding of our different personalities and perceptions of how we live our lives.

Gable allows her American and French characters to respond and react within the perimeters of this well-established awareness between the two cultural divides, yet she always attempts to step out of the stigma and re-align a sense of forward progression.

Fly in the Ointment:

I am not sure why I felt I was awaiting the shoe to drop but call it reader intuition as I had a stirring sense of knowledge the strongest of words would start to trickle out into the enriched descriptive narrative like water snaking out of a busted drain. And, rather unsatisfying to me, of course by page 45 we had to see reveal the one word I despise amongst all others flaunted on display. I truly have yet to find a reason for such inclusions, but on this particular novel’s behalf what felt even more flat is the layers of depth Gable gave to her descriptions.

She breathes words which are not regularly found in Contemporary nor Historical Contemporary Fiction, and somehow the additions of vulgarity felt as though she were depreciating the level of sophistication she started the novel off with at the beginning. In the same sense where April felt vexed when a causal touch or disrespect for the pieces in the apartment were being unceremoniously contaminated by carelessness.

These strong words can be blinked out of today’s fiction for my own sake of sanity, as when I find wicked quality on behalf of the story-teller I am walking a line betwixt wanting to recommend the work for the level of literary quality vs shirking away from realising the recommendation is on a work that is inclusive of language I cannot fathom needing being included. I am as indecisive of knowing how best to augment my final thoughts as I had been after concluding “I Shall Be Near to You”.

I wish I could say the saving grace within this particular tome of narrative voice is that the vulgarity was as intermittent as a wayward fly at a baseball game, however, they were bent on making such striking appearances as to remind me why I do not appreciate the surge in love bugs during Autumn! The annoyance level is always on extreme high as try as you might you cannot outwit a love bug deluge.

On a separate note, I felt the French words writ straight into the dialogue sequences would have felt more second nature to the reader if there were (translated English words) running counterpoint to the French. I positively love when language is used as a vocal representation of setting and of a time of era, yet when all I have is a language opposite of the one I natively speak, all I can do at best is give a smile of a nod to the words themselves without a proper sense of what is actually being said. As a for instance, if one wanted to say “Autumn is such a proper renewal of spirited joy after a languishing of Summer.” Why not write it like this: (or a variant therein)

"L'automne est un tel renouvellement correct de joie vive après une langueur de l'été."  (Autumn is such a proper renewal of spirited joy after a languishing of Summer.)  she expressed in full measure of unexpected happiness.

I used an online French / English Translation app and thereby am not responsible if the French to English has acceptable loss of error. I simply wanted to convey how frustrated I felt whilst caught up in the French expressions without an English translation in-text. This is not a quote from the novel either – I crafted the entire exchange on the fly so to speak.

I also noted that whenever we were re-visiting Madame de Florian’s life through her diary of letters, the language of English she used was American rather than British, and that was a unique observation for me. I realise most works of American novels in historical fiction do not encompass British English in preference of historical accuracy but I am always struck at a loss to understand why they do not? She wouldn’t be using the spelling of ‘endeavor’ for instance as she would have writ it as ‘endeavour’. It is almost as though the historical points of view are translated yet the language bits are not; a bit of a wench in the wheel to me.

I would have given a celebratory nod of realism had the modern bits [focused on April] had solidified her speaking vernacular of American English with French in-text translations of English; fused counter-current with Madame de Florian’s diaries writ in British English with overlays of French (with in-text translations as well).

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 Read an Excerpt of the Novel:

{Provided by Issuu.com}

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Virtual Road Map for “A Paris Apartment” Blog Tour:

A Paris Apartment Blog Tour via France Book Tours

A special notation at the end of my post is dedicated to the writers like Ms. Gable & Ms. Alexander (of Dare to Kiss who supports a PTSD charity), who give proceeds of their novels to charity, in this particular instance Ms. Gable has a rotation of charitable organisations she is contributing towards each month there are net proceeds from A Paris Apartment. I found the list on her website and have linked the charities for easy reference to click-through & discover more about each of them.

MAY: The Chloe Nichols Foundation
JUNE: Wounded Warrior Project
JULY: Monarch School (San Diego)
AUGUST: Help4HD International
SEPTEMBER: Safe Horizon

I have been supporting the Wounded Warrior Project in small ways and one day hope to strengthen my support to make a larger impact, as I find it a difficult pill to swallow that we are not taking care of our returning servicemen & women. The crisis of our Veterans is knitted close to my heart and it is an on-going mission of mine to help find ways to improve their lives; not only through this charity but the outreach Hire Heroes USA as well. I have been supporting the troops through Soldiers’ Angels since 2011.

I was hoping to find an organisation and/or charity that would help the homeless stand stronger and put their lives together through positive hope and obtainable goals; seeking a footprint towards a stronger future. I am blessed to have found the Monarch School on this list as I think this is a concept that needs to be taken nationwide.

Likewise, through the 8 years I devouted to watching Law & Order in my twenties, I became especially keen on the charity of Mariska Hargitay : The Joyful Heart Foundation. As much as watching the mission behind No More flourish and take root. Women have always been rock solid innovators, and every step of the way the more we all choose to reach out to those in need of assistance, empathy, hope, and a bit of joy — we endeavour our own spirits to be lifted up in universal love.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comBe sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:

France Book Tours

 on my Bookish Events page!

Please take note of the Related Articles as they were hand selected due to being of cross-reference importance in relation to this book review. This applies to each post on my blog where you see Related Articles underneath the post. Be sure to take a moment to acknowledge the further readings which are offered.

I positively *love!* comments in the threads below each of my posts, kindly know that I appreciate each thought you want to share with me and all the posts on my blog are open to new comments & commentary! Short or long, I appreciate the time you spent to leave behind a note of your visit! Return again soon! 

{SOURCES: Cover art of “A Paris Apartment”, book synopsis, author photograph of Michelle Gable, author biography, and the tour host badge were all provided by France Book Tours and used with permission. The Excerpt of “A Paris Apartment’ on Issuu had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. France Book Tours badge created by Jorie in Canva.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

Related Articles:

The Complete Works of Giovanni Boldini – (giovanniboldini.org)

Madame de Florian’s Abandoned Apartment – (anothermag.com)

House Tour the Secret Paris Apartment of Madame De Florian – (blog.decoratorsnotebook.co.uk)

Suspended in Time – (blogofthecourtier.com)

The ‘live reading’ tweets I shared as I read & reviewed “A Paris Apartment”:

{ favourite & Re-tweet if inspired to share }

Comments on Twitter:

The best blessing for me tonight as I read A Paris Apartment is the beautiful happenstance conversation I had with a British Historical fiction author, Ms. McGrath who is a close personal friend to two lovely story-tellers I have not only featured on Jorie Loves A Story but cannot stop talking about their stories to anyone who fancies the same types of narratives as I do! I am referring to Ms. Liz Harris (A Bargain Struck & The Road Back) and Ms. Jenny Barden (The Lost Duchess). Our conversation is inside my feeds on Twitter as I stopped copying them over as they became our own convo independent of Ms. Gable’s novel. I was wicked happy in another regard – now that I have my landing page set up, I can start commenting once more on the English Historical Fiction Author’s Blog as oft as I can the Heroes, Heroines, & History Blog! Champion! All is never quite as lost as we first fear!

I truly believe in what I tweeted just shy of 2am:

Divider

Posted Sunday, 5 October, 2014 by jorielov in 21st Century, Adulterous Affair, Antiques, Art History, Artwork Provenance, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Clever Turns of Phrase, Courtesan & Cocottes, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Disillusionment in Marriage, Fly in the Ointment, France, France Book Tours, French Literature, Geographically Specific, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Life Shift, Literary Fiction, Madame de Florian, Passionate Researcher, Post-911 (11th September 2001), Shelf Awareness, Spontaneous Convos Inspired by Book, Time Shift, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Vulgarity in Literature, Women's Fiction, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage

*Blog Book Tour*: The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Posted Tuesday, 12 November, 2013 by jorielov , , , 5 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

The House Girl

Published By: William Morrow,

an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (12, February 2013 [hardback]

Published By: William Morrow Paperbacks, 5, November 2013 [paperback]

Official Author Websites: Conklin on Facebook; Conklin on Twitter;

Personal Website and Contributor @ Popcorn the Blog.

Available Formats: Paperback, Hardback, and E-Book Page Count: 400

Converse on Twitter: #TheHouseGirl

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Acquired Book By: Book Browse First Impressions Programme: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for my honest review on Book Browse, from the publisher William Morrow. The House Girl was amongst the offerings for November 2012, as this book was published in February 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared therein or herein. Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com On Being a Part of the Blog Book Tour: Whilst I submitted my application to work with TLC Book Tours, I had mentioned that I have read this particular book as I noted they were going to launch a blog book tour for it in November 2013; to celebrate the paperback release! I thought it would be nice to participate in a blog book tour on behalf of a book that truly not only captivated my imagination but is of a story that I have never fully let go of since I put the book down! I was thankful to be placed on the tour! Therefore, this is my second reading of this story based on the ARC I previously received. I will juxtaposition my original thoughts alongside my new impressions as they are revealed! I did not receive compensation for my participation on this book tour! Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com Inspired to Re-Visit: As a reader there are always those particular books that stand out to us, stories and characters who have a way of transforming our perspective as much as endearing us to a particular time in history that was wholly different from the time we live in ourselves. These are the stories that challenge us to dig into the heart of the narrative to seek out the truth of which the writer is imparting to us. Through their words of choice, as much as the fingering nudges they urge us to open our eyes to, a portion of history that is hard to reconcile even today. They endeavour us to seek humanity and empathy as they seek to obliterate social prejudices whilst revealing a story that is not only multi-layered but dimensionally complex. This is one of those stories that leaves you ruminative as you close the book sleeves and sit pondering the greater message that has been revealed in its ending.

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Listen to an Excerpt:

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comSlipping Back in Time and Forward Again:

Conklin weaves her narrative forward and backwards between Josephine’s world in the mid to late 1800s, and Lina’s in the present day, given us the full force of each woman’s plight as their individual circumstances start to unfold. Josephine is not a free slave when the story begins, as she earnestly wants to run to freedom and enter into a new life she has dared not allow herself to imagine. Her sole friend and confidante was Lottie, a woman of passionate faith mixed with an indomitable spirit despite the hardship of loss she has suffered. The two women forged a friendship which consoled Josephine as the years waxed onward. Their lives were always interrupted by the absence of sold-off slaves, of whom they had grown attached too and suddenly never knew what had become of them next. The worst part of their lives was the broken connections between friends, family, and offspring. No living histories could be formed in other words, which led many to question and wonder what ever became of anyone they had ever known.

Lina on the other hand, is caught between where her life has led her and where her heart is leading her to go next. She is harbouring deep seeded anguish murmuring from her past into her present, as she attempts to break free once and for all. She has closed her heart to seeking out a way to let love back into her life as she has walled herself against being close to anyone who could bring her discomfort or loss. What she wasn’t realising is that a life without love is a sure way to live a half-fulfilled life which would only bring regret in the end. The ability to make two cornerstone eras reminiscent through narrative, dialogue, and elemental knowledge of the eras themselves is a nodding to how Conklin fuses the story within the time setting of The House Girl. She diverts your mind from realising there is a time slip happening as you shift further into the folds of the novel, soaking in the natural world through Josephine’s eyes and taking in the repulsive angst of a reparations case in Lina’s. Whichever setting you find yourself present in per chapter you’re not in your current time and place, but rather are living through the spirit and eyes of Conklin’s lead heroines. As for me, both Josephine and Lina are heroines in their own rights, having transcended everything that was holding them back.

My Review of The House Girl [one year later] for TLC Book Tours:

The story opens inside an ordinary day in Josephine’s, where she has to endure more abuse from her Master. Her eye is always attached to the outside world noticing the most insignificant details. It’s in these details her true freedom begins. She drinks in a piece of joy whilst walking barefoot in the grass, a moment for her that meant more than what could be observed in its simplicity. She was bourne into a world of unjust rules thrust upon her and those like her to live with the heaviest of burdens without the rights afforded to them. To live in a world where you had no say in what became of you is the hardest part of the story to drink in as a reader. Your heart starts to grieve as Josephine and Lottie’s intimate conversations paint the stark realities of their world. Where even the necessity of medical care was not given as an option. Her only resolve was to focus on the task at hand which gave her a purpose for the hour. It wasn’t enough to keep her thoughts away from running, but it helped to keep her focus off her nerves.

As time slips back into the present, Lina comes into view as a lawyer bent under the pressures of being on the fast track to success. A slave in her own right to the work load she is drowning inside. Lina suffers from lack of self-esteem and self-confidence in both her work ethic and her abilities to provide the services her clients are in need of most. She finds that her position at the law firm is all but redundant as the work she puts in is not even close to being necessary. She is finding that her role in life is being a cog in the wheel to where her fated course is up to someone else. She has missed the ability to feel as though she is making a difference rather than only doing what is expected of her. When she is assigned the reparations case to seek a living heir through the descendants of Josephine Bell and to provide proof of provenance for the artwork which was recovered (as there is an issue of who the artist actually was), she finds her true self. She starts to shed  the outer barrier that kept her at a distance from becoming close to others and starts to find her voice through following the path of Josephine; the house girl who dreamt of freedom in the Underground Railroad.

In direct comparison, here is my Original Review for Book Browse First Impressions:

Art Redeems the Soul

Josephine Bell is the catalyst that launches an inquiry into the historical past, to unearth the mystery of what happened to the artist who fashioned the artwork that survived time. Her story is not unlike others in her class and station, in the late 1800’s. A slave bound to her Master’s wife, as a house girl confined to their land and their rules. A life that would have gone unnoticed until an unsuspecting lawyer (Lina) in the 21st century (early 2000’s) is giving the task to unearth data on a case that would give back redemption to those who have all but been erased by modern history. This isn’t just a story that evokes the tragedy of those enslaved in the South, but rather a silver lining of Hope… that their lives took on greater meaning and purpose when their lives started to intersect with others. It’s through this intersection where the ripples of small kindnesses and hours of bravery, began to change the lives of others. I found that inside the secondary characters held within the House Girl, the simplest of truths to step forward. Peace with Self. Strength in Resolve. Determined Self Reliance. And the hope of freedom. Oppression comes in different forms, as even those who live free are not always free to do what their hearts desire.

I believe this would make an excellent addition to an Art History class or a Civil Rights class which focuses on slavery in the South. The tone of the book is uplifting, shattering past the blights of misery to yield a lens into how strong women can be in the moments that count the most.

My cross-comparison of my feelings separated by a year between readings:

Initially when I first read The House Girl, I had a lot of thoughts and feelings running through my head at the time I was reading the narrative, so much in fact, I nearly felt like I should have a blog to write everything down and share with other readers! Fast forward to when I was applying to be a tour hostess for TLC Book Tours, and the opportunity arose to re-read this lovely novel that never quite left my conscience since I originally read it! All those swirling thoughts started to re-surface, but I tried to keep them at bay, in order to best re-visit a book I had previously read! I liked the challenge of this particular book tour, as it would stretch me completely outside my comfort zone as I have never re-read a book for a tour beforehand! I liked the fact that I would have to not only challenge my heart to approach the story with a new pair of eyes but to keep myself focused on the hidden depths of the novel that I might have overlooked or missed during my first reading!

Therefore, I can attest that as I was musing about the message of The House Girl, I found myself a bit at a loss for words to purport it into focus in a clear and even paragraph. This is a novel that is best read by feeling the story by your heart and the evoking emotions that comes out of internalising the story you’ve just read. I was deeply attached to each character at different parts of the story’s thread, as you get to see different pieces of their souls shining through at different intervals. In my mind, there wouldn’t have been much to lament about on Lina’s behalf if Josephine Bell hadn’t been in her life; likewise, I feel as though Josephine Bell’s life was to give a living testament and tribute to her descendants once the provenance of her artwork was discovered. The greater truth I think is the perception we have of blood relations and the essence of who we are on the outside as a mirror image of who we are on the inside.

The House Girl challenges the perception of ancestral lines and blood ties as passed down through the generations from the original start of a hereditary chain. It seeks to point to the truth of who we are as a society and who we endeavour to become. I still stand by what I spoke about a year ago, as there is such a determined spirit to The House Girl, as far as taking bold steps to overcome your circumstances as much as being bold in your faith when you feel all hope has been lost. As you unravel the heart of the story, you start to see the other layers which were intuitively stitched into the tapestry of Josephine and Lina’s entwined story-lines. Even now, a full year later, I find that my final sentence in my original review is the key for me to think back upon this story with fond affection: The tone of the book is uplifting, shattering past the blights of misery to yield a lens into how strong women can be in the moments that count the most.

Empathy wrapped inside Sophisticated Prose:

Tara Conlin photo credit Mary Grace Long
Photo Credit: Mary Grace Long

Ms. Conklin has a wonderful ability for drawing empathy and compassion out of her narrative whilst wrapping her story inside sophisticated prose which speaks to a higher message. Her willingness to delve into the deeper levels of humanity and uncertainty for each of her characters’ lives, gives the reader a first-hand impression of where the story led her to go as she wrote it. I was struck by her honest way of writing the time slip between Josephine and Lina, to where neither century felt forced or conjectured. She uses words to paint the time eclipse of each woman on the cusp of a season of change arriving into their lives when they least expect a change to be possible. Each woman is seeking her own true self and a freedom of their past they were not expecting to receive. It’s in this honesty that Conklin performs the best visually, as she uncovers the nibblings of the human spirit as evoked through the emotional shiftings of her two protagonists. Reading through The House Girl you gather the sense that the story itself had an equally powerful effect on its writer. And, I suppose that begs to ask the question, “Are stories written by their writers solely, or are stories evoked out of a seed of a story that alights in a writer’s mind as needing to be told?”

Inspired to Share: Ms. Conklin talks about her journey towards publishing The House Girl, and how like Lina, she was a lawyer originally but technically still feels in her heart she is still a lawyer. Her novel started as a seed of an idea and developed into a novel. I must have tapped into this rather intuitively as it was true! I found it interesting how the slave doctor catapulted her muse to follow where the story was leading her. As you listen to her experiences as a litigator as it cross-compares to her life as a writer, she has a fascinating beginning to her writing career. Research and writing as a litigator was a natural progression for Conklin to become a novelist. I find this most intriguing, as I hadn’t realised how much research and writing goes into being a litigator! One of the more compelling things she discloses is how she became a wordsmith of the mid-to-late 1800s by keeping a journal of words she had read inside letters of the time. I appreciated her speaking about the aspect of ‘freedom’, as I have oft believed myself that true freedom lies in the simplicity. She loved the short story format but never thought she could create a novel! She happily surprised herself. I highly recommend taking the time to see the interview in full!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Tara Conklin Interview by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association

on Bill Kenower [Author, Magazine Editor] Channel

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

The “The House Girl” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

  1. 5 November: Review @ Read Lately
  2. 7 November: Review @ A Bookish Affair
  3. 11 November: @ Books in the Burbs
  4. 12 November: Review @ Jorie Loves a Story
  5. 13 November: @ Peppermint PhD
  6. 14 November: @ Lavish Bookshelf
  7. 18 November: @ Olduvai Reads
  8. 19 November: @ BoundbyWords
  9. 20 November: @ Book-alicious Mama
  10. 26 November: @ A Bookish Way of Life

I hope to be a regular tour hostess with:

TLC Book Toursuntil then, check up my upcoming Bookish Events Featured on JLAS!

[*NOTE: Any and all purchase links that are attached to SoundCloud are not affiliated with Jorie Loves A Story.]
{SOURCES: Cover art of “The House Girl” as well as Tara Conklin’s photograph, and the logo badge for TLC Book Tours were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. The author interview by PNWA / Author magazine as well as the audio excerpt of “The House Girl” by Tara Conklin via SoundCloud had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it.  Blog tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.

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Posted Tuesday, 12 November, 2013 by jorielov in ARC | Galley Copy, Art History, Artist's Proof, Artwork Provenance, Author Interview, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Browse, Civil Rights, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Equality In Literature, Fathers and Daughters, First Impressions, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Pre-Civil War, Soundcloud, The Deep South, Time Slip, TLC Book Tours, Underground Railroad