The Paris Secret
by Karen Swan
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publishing Date: 14th July 2015
Source: Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 416
Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
Somewhere along the cobbled streets of Paris, an apartment lies thick with dust and secrets: full of priceless artworks hidden away for decades.
High-flying Fine Art Agent Flora from London, more comfortable with the tension of a million-pound auction than a cosy candlelit dinner for two, is called in to asses these suddenly discovered treasures. As an expert in her field, she must trace the history of each painting and just who has concealed them for so long.
Thrown in amongst the glamorous Vermeil family as they move between Paris and Antibes, Flora begins to discover that things aren’t all that they seem, while back at home her own family is recoiling from a seismic shock. The terse and brooding Xavier Vermeil seems intent on forcing Flora out of his family’s affairs – but just what is he hiding?
I am always waiting impatiently for Karen Swan’s new novel, no matter if it is a summer or winter release. I can be sure that Ms Swan is going to deliver a fantastic, wonderfully plotted, full of gorgeous places and brilliantly drawn characters story. This time Karen Swan let herself be inspired by a discovery of a Parisian apartment several years ago, which I didn’t know to be honest, I learnt this when reading the book already, but I think it was a great idea – just imagine, apartment left behind, looking the same as on the day when its owner departed, its treasures and secrets and hidden past – and about this all Karen Swan writes in her new novel, not forgetting about her distinctive add of glamour.
To be absolutely honest I am not so into art. Sure, I know a few artists and I know that Renoir is a big name but art was never my things. However, not for a single moment was I afraid that the story is going to bore me with the descriptions of paintings or sculptures – because Karen Swan knew exactly how much is too much and really, I couldn’t have enough of the descriptions of the lost art – it was interesting, it was hooking and it was new to me. And – surprise, surprise – they were one my most favourite passages in the book. But those were not only the descriptions of the art that were so captivating, oh no. Karen Swan, as usually, writes so vividly about the places and the settings and I could easily imagine everything, see it in my mind, beginning with the lost apartment, through the places Flora visits and ending with Gertie the ostrich. Yes Because of course, as usual, Karen Swan takes us on a journey around the world. Together with Flora we travel to the most glamorous places of Paris, London, Vienna and Antibes and I really enjoyed it. What I enjoyed even more is that in all the places there is not only glamour and glitz but also secrets and hidden pasts, and ones that I couldn’t dream about – the author has really taken me by surprise with each secret revealed. When I was a little over the half of the book one of the secrets and puzzles has been solved, and it was brilliant, I’d never guess it for myself, and I didn’t even try to be honest, but I also thought, wow, and what is the second half of the book going to be about when this thread is closed? But then I turned the page and boom, the author has hit me with a twist that I would never in a million years see coming. And it was like this with mostly the whole book – there were things and events happening that I didn’t see coming.
All of the characters are so well – rounded and each of them is given their own personality by the author. Some of them are more likeable, some of them less but all their life stories are relatable to and realistic. Flora is a lovely character. Strong, independent and she knows what she wants, and her passion to her job was fantastic. And because of this passion she is also a great detective! She has really incredible skills and she knows where to dig to find information she needs, hats off girl, I’d never be able to unearth such things. She is also very caring and she loves her family and there are really many layers to her but altogether I think you can’t not like her. Flora is a fine art adviser and for her job she travels around the world to procure very expensive paintings (like, you know, Picasso or Renoir) for her clients. The finding of the hidden apartment was from the beginning not her usual job but then she finds herself roped into a secret that also concern the paintings and other valuable artefacts found in the apartment but also it concerns the family the apartment belongs to. And Flora is not the one that lets the secret stay undercover, even if the secret in question is really a big one.
What didn’t work so much for me was the romance element in this story, however I think I know what the author wanted to achieve. It was as if the first part of the book focused much more on the art and the second part was more on Flora’s life and this budding romance. It was there but it was as if it wasn’t in the story, if you follow me Nevertheless, even with the few scenes, the chemistry and sparkles between Flora and Xavier were incredible, I think it was the best captured blossoming relationship ever written! Well, okay, I’d prefer a little different ending, hoping Flora would stay hard but it’s only me. There were so many significant events happening in the story but the author doesn’t explain everything at once. Oh no. She lets the tension to built and there were moments that I’ve already forgotten about something or moments that I was afraid the author has forgotten about something. But no worries, guys, all the secrets are revealed, all the questions are answered – in their own time. It doesn’t mean that the story drags or that I was struggling to go through it, of course not, it is so full of great things that I didn’t see coming and I didn’t notice the time passing, so immersed was I in the reading, and I enjoyed every single page of this book. It is this kind of book that you think you have all figured but then another curve ball comes and hits you on the head. There is really much more to it that meets the eye and I truly recommend this book. Karen Swan creates stories that keep me hooked in their grips, and it was the same with „The Paris Secrets”. I absolutely loved the writing style and the story itself – it was intriguing, hooking and original, it felt like a breath of fresh air. Karen Swan tells the story so effortlessly and I really felt like a part of the characters’ world. Sure, there were some moments that the plot seemed a little too far – fetched and the sudden change in Xavier’s sister Natascha towards Flora was too sudden and too obvious, but altogether, I adored this story. I immersed myself in the world of art, glamour and glitz, in the world of secrets and mysteries and I think this is the perfect summer read.