Thursday, May 12, 2011

Review: 13, rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro

13, rue Thérèse: A NovelTitle: 13, rue Therese

Author: Elena Mauli Shapiro

Pages: 268 (I have an ARC, so page numbers in finished copies may differ)

Source: Publisher for review

Rating: 7/10

Summary (From back of book):

American academic Trevor Stratton discovers a box full of artifacts as he settles into his new office in Paris. The pictures, letters, and objects in the box relate to the life of Louise Brunet, a Frenchwoman who lived through both world wars.

Trevor begins to piece together the story of Louise's life: her love for a cousin who died in the war, her marriage to a man who works for her father, and her attraction to a neighbor in her building at 13, rue Therese. As Trevor becomes enamored of the charming, feisty Louise of his imagination, he notices another alluring Frenchwoman: his clerk, Josianne, who planted the mysterious box in his office and with whom he finds he is falling in love.

My Two Cents:

The story of how this book came to be and the concept around which Shapiro builds her novel is really interesting. The author acquired a box of artifacts -- letters, pressed flowers, gloves -- that belonged to an upstairs neighbor when she lived in Paris. It is around these real-life things that she builds this book and from which she imagines the life of the real Louise Brunet. She then takes those artifacts and frames them within the story of Trevor, an American who finds the box in his new office in Paris. I think the framework and the real-life story behind all the things we see scanned into the book is what I liked best about this book.

Due to the framework of the novel, I found it difficult to actually get to know Trevor as a character. This was kind of disappointing to me, as I would have liked to know him more since he basically is the one telling the story.

We do, however, get to know Louise very well. I honestly wasn't sure what to think of Louise. There were times when I liked her and times when I did not like her one bit. She was very much a Scarlett O'Hara to me, without the extended periods of complete and total loathing. Overall, though, I think she was a really interesting main character and I enjoyed the fact that, even though she likely was nothing like the real Louise Brunet, she was based somewhat on a real person.

This is an enjoyable, easy read that I would recommend to anyone looking for a fun little mystery to figure out along with their reading.

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