It was completely fascinating watching the news this week. Whilst many of you may be been glued to budget announcements, (I certainly was – for a while) I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the story from Henry Samuel in Paris about the apartment which was discovered untouched, after 70 years without occupancy.
Like commentators the world over, the story of Mrs de Florian, who was considered a ‘demimondaine’ (a woman supported by a wealthy lover !), is fascinating as it leaves too many questions – much like a fabulously intriguing novel! Why on earth didn’t she return to her home? Did she know her grandmother was the muse of Giovanni Boldini? Given there are no family members know, who on earth receives the proceeds from the sale of the Boldini paintings and all the other incredible treasures discovered in the apartment?
Leaving an article, which leaves more questions than it does answers is intriguing and mildly exhilarating. It creates an opportunity to wander around Googling, discovering link after link and the story gets richer with more and more supporting information.
What then happens when you leave a book, with more questions than answers? There is a school of thought, which says you must bundle up the story with a satisfying ending or the reader will be cranky with you! Like all rules that are to be adhered to, when you read a book by an author who spectacularly breaks them, it is indeed an extraordinary reading experience.
Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life came to my attention because we were talking ‘book trailers’ in my writers group and I was sent the link. The trailer was interesting enough to ensure I bought the book! I didn’t know anything about the author, her history, where she had come from… A bit like Mrs de Florian, a mystery!
The reading experience was, well, I said it before, extraordinary. Kate explores what happens to a character when given another chance at life – the same life. Each time, until death, giving her an opportunity to make different decisions which impact on the path the character then takes. Kate uses the backdrop of World War II to magnify the extremes of the environment to subsequently explore the concept of self-preservation and listening to our own instincts.
I can only imagine Mrs de Florian listened to her own instincts and didn’t return to her apartment. She would undoubtedly known the rules of society and then she broke them.
Imagine what an incredible author she would have been.
(PS - the Getty Image was from MessyNessy's blog - the image wasn't included in the Telegraph slideshow)