Born into a wealthy Parisian family at the center of Belle Epoque society, 18-year-old Aimée Savaray dreams of becoming a respected painter in the male-dominated art world; and secretly, she also dreams of being loved by Henri, the boy her parents took in as a child and raised alongside her.
But when Henri inexplicably disappears, in the midst of the Franco-Prussian war, the Savarays’ privileged lives begin to unravel. Heartbroken, Aimée tries to find him, but Henri doesn’t want to be found—and only one member of the family knows why.
As Aimée seeks refuge in the art world, mentored by the Impressionist Édouard Manet, she unwittingly finds her way back to Henri. With so many years gone by and secrets buried, their eventual reunion unmasks the lies that once held the family together, but now threaten to tear them apart.
A rich and opulent saga, Girl in the Afternoon brings the Impressionists to life in this portrait of scandal, fortune, and unrequited love.
Belle Époque Paris. Three words that will sell me on a book in a heartbeat. The opulence of fashion and architecture. The richness of artistic and intellectual life. The idea of “The Salon” and sparkling soirees that lasted until the morning sun lit the sky a color to match the Perrier Jouet in party-goers crystal flutes. BELLE EPOQUE PARIS. YES.
The setting of Girl in the Afternoon lived up to my expectations of Paris during this era. The descriptions of the clothes, the streets, the people, the flats, and artist studios were as vivid and lush as a painting. The descriptive sentences use to describe the main character’s emotions and observations were poetic and evoked images like a painting as well. I found that this was my favorite part of Girl in the Afternoon.
I was not crazy about the characters. I did not feel a connection with any of them, and I despised the mother of the main female character, but I think that was the point. I would have to say that Edouard Manet was my favorite character of this novel. Unfortunately, he only exists on the fringes of the story.
Despite the characters who were a little underdeveloped for my liking, the plot was thick and complicated. Depressing and twisted, feminist and emotional, the dark secret at the heart of the story is the stuff that Lifetime television movies are made of.
Girl in the Afternoon is a quick read that is great on ambiance and drama. Have you read Girl in the Afternoon? I would love to know your thoughts on it in the comments section below.
Here’s a little sampler of some café music that captures a less serious, less refined culture of the Belle Époque. When listening to this music, it’s easy to imagine people laughing, bathed in a romantic carefree glow, toasting overflowing steins of beer and bubbly champagne while admiring an impromptu can-can show at the local street café.
And just for FUN:
Here is a classical music playlist that captures the more intellectual, bohemian, and artistic mood of Belle Époque Paris.