Happy March everyone! The goal this month was to buddy read Gallant by V.E. Schwab but Erin’s copy was delayed from England so we took the first week of March off and skipped to our second read of the month; The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley. We both loved her Reese Witherspoon book club pick, The Guest List, so this was a no brainer to read as soon as we heard about the release. Because of the style that this book is written in, we decided to focus on the actual writing and our thoughts of the general plot/ characters/ locations. We do fully recommend clicking on the book depository link on the side of the page and grabbing a copy yourself. Keep in mind that there are multiple trigger warnings that include alcoholism, sex, mental health, and abuse in this book. Now, without further ado; our review!
“Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.
The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.
The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge
Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.”
Erin: Okay so I adored my time in Paris and this book made the atmosphere so much darker and sinister, I feel like I would think about this book in the back of my mind if I went there again.
Ashli: I’ve never been to Paris but I am hoping to go at the end of this year if I go to England with my boyfriend and his family. I don’t think I am going to have a different feeling because of this book, but I am going to make a point to find some of the places mentioned since my Paris trip is meant to be a literary trip anyways. I’ve got the Waterstones edition that includes some deleted scenes from previous drafts. One of the scenes is actually one where the apartment is in a different area of Paris and it sits on a secret entrance to the catacombs with a WW2 Nazi bunker. That in itself would have totally added to that darker atmosphere!
E: That would have been a great scene! I loved the catacombs so much. I’m thinking we need to go to Paris together now.
A: Then book a ticket for sometime in September in case the entire world is not at war by then cause that is when Grant and I are planning on England, Scottish Highlands, Paris, and (if we have the money and time) Albania. But we should probably focus on the book since this is a book blog not a travel blog…
E: This book was a really fast read for me. I curled up with it on Thursday and by Friday evening I was done, and properly shocked.
A: I took longer because I needed to digest things and wrap my head around the characters and their roles. It also didn’t help that I got a pretty bad flare on one of the days so I couldn’t hold the book. But I do agree that it is fast paced which really worked for the story being told.
E: As I mentioned previously, the atmosphere is really creepy. My husband was out with friends on Thursday night and I ended up texting him and saying I wouldn't be able to go to bed until he got home. This book had way too many creaky floorboards, people stealing away into shadows and general “ominous-ness” to sleep alone :P
A: See that is where we are totally different. I am a huge horror fan and creepy atmospheres are my jam. There were points that I really wished we were having a storm while I read this book to really add to that ominous feeling. Even though my wish never came true, I was still on the edge of my seat (literally) at points of this book and shivering with the feeling of someone watching me from the corners of the house. I loved every moment of it.
E: I really liked Jess, our MC. She was crafty, smart and tenacious. In the same breath that I say she was smart, I want to say she was stupid. She probably should have kept her search for her brother, Ben, a little quieter–rather than going up to anyone she could find and asking if they had seen or heard from him.
A: Jess was a really good MC, I agree. The fact that she took a drink from a guy she didn’t know at a party in the house where she was already suspicious made me really think that she was stupid but in general she actually was quite smart. She was resourceful even though she was almost too trusting of many people.
E: This book for me was fast paced but it was more than that. I think the urgency for Jess’s need to find her brother really came through. There was a frenzied nature to the book that had me rushing to finish. There is a fairly large reveal about half way through, and after that it feels like a mad dash to the end to find out how it all fits together.
A: It really was and that shows the skill that Foley holds in her fingers/ imagination. She is a master of weaving together clues and surprises in every chapter that forces you to keep going even when it’s super late at night.
E: One thing that fell flat for me was that the side characters weren’t really flushed out for me. They would have done with more back story maybe or only had a couple of occupants in the other apartments. Antoine especially– who I had pegged as an idiot drunk, turned much more sinister and I had to reevaluate my previous characterizations. Same with Mimi actually… she seemed very juvenile but obviously by the end we saw how damaged she was and that she had really bad obsessive behaviour. Maybe that was the point the author was trying to make? Everything on the surface isn't what it seems.
A: I couldn’t stand Antoine… at first I was like “oh bad boy character” and then I almost immediately saw how abusive he was and I was disgusted by him. It was actually interesting that we didn’t get chapters from his point of view even though we pretty much got the rest of the family’s voices. I did want to know more about the journalist that Jess had helping her. He seemed like a great guy and I kept seeing Lenny Bruce from The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel tv show in my head when he popped up.
E: Totally agree with the journalist, that could have been a whole other layer if Foley had chosen that route.
E: This is a typical Foley book with a large cast of characters. But this felt more manageable to me than the Guest List. I loved the short chapters, it really kept the book moving. Something I was a bit disappointed about was that Paris didn’t really factor in. Sophie felt very Parisian to me, but I feel like the setting could have been anywhere. There wasn’t much background description or tangible setting that made me feel like I was in Paris.
A: Yah it felt like it could have happened anywhere other than the few place name drops that were scattered around and the random French phrases from various characters. Sophie did feel more French but it might have been because she forced herself for so long to be French.
E: It doesn’t take long to realise that none of the characters are very likeable, and that made it hard for me to connect. Even Jess was a bit of a mess, but it wasn't enough of a mess to have me sympathising. I wanted to know the ending but it wasn’t that I wanted Jess to get her answers and hopefully a happy ending.
A: I still do really like our journalist friend and I feel for poor Mimi a lot. She has had it rough. I also really loved the caretaker and my heart broke for the woman. In general the women really all found themselves in such a bad situation that I did sympathise with them on some level; though I will agree that the plot was what really drove me through. I think that it is something that I see a lot of with thriller novels… the plot is what really drives everything and characters are almost secondary. I am much more of a character driven person in general so I gravitate more towards the horror genre of the thriller side because I do see a lot more characterization happening there since we actually need to be able to root for someone. This is closer to a mystery thriller for me which actually isn’t my wheelhouse unless it is a Foley novel because I can hook to her plots better than most.
E: I read a couple of other reviews and the similar complaint if there is one, is that there isn’t much going on and it lacks a plot. I totally agree with you on liking character driven novels. I think this book was really well executed and provides a really intense story. I didn’t find anything wrong with this style and Foley is quickly becoming an auto buy for me.
That's all for this one! We do promise to post about Gallant by the end of the month as long as Erin has got her copy in time. Ashli's heart was torn open right on that still healing slice that was started by Addie LaRue so it will be a good one. But in the meantime, we have an author interview scheduled for early April that you can for sure add to your calendars.