This beautiful story is set in France in 1900, where Gabrielle, a young woman who is about to be forced into marriage with a lot older man, the Baron d’Argente, is waiting for a train at Laval station. Unable to bear her decreed fate, and with dreams of being an artist, the beautiful Gabrielle has decided to flee the family home, and travel to Paris. Once there she intends to find her grandmother, and stay with her whilst she studies at the prestigious art Académie Julian.
However, when she arrives in Paris, Gabrielle discovers her grandmother no longer lives at the Montmartre address – and no-one knows where she has gone…
Finding herself unexpectedly alone in this large city, Gabrielle very quickly discovers that she has more pressing problems, she has to find not only lodgings, but a means to support herself, if she is to gain a place at the academy and search for her missing grandmother.
As we travel with Gabrielle in an age where young women of good birth didn’t wander around on their own, we watch her make friends, survive some distressing situations, and learn some very hard life lessons.
Through her eyes, we discover the Montmartre of this time, a place which ‘behaves much like the village it was before being annexed by the city,’ and marvel at the beautiful Sacré-Cœur (which has not been completed in this story). As her friendship deepens with Philippe Lucien and others, we join them as they visit the Expo, and discover the still world famous Moulin de la Gallette, sampling the vibrant night life, and the larger than life characters. Through her, we meet, and enter the world of the flamboyant artists who inhabited this area, and take a peep into their lives. We visit the Louvre museum, and enjoy the exotic places of the time like the Botanical gardens and the wild animals kept in its zoo. Life for her is exciting, sometimes frightening but always interesting as she strives to be accepted as an artist and searches for her beloved grandmother.
Throughout the story you find yourself asking “Can a young girl so naïve in many ways survive in Paris, and will she succeed in studying at the académie?”
What will the future hold for Gabrielle?
Well, the answers all lie in this fascinating story which was inspired by the authors own grandmother. Through her wonderful storytelling she has given the lucky reader not only a wonderful tale but also a glimpse into what life was like in the early 1900’s. The book is now part of the Louvre Museum Library collection.
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