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Review: 13, Rue Therese, Elena Mauli Shapiro

Trevor Stratton finds a peculiar box in his office one day; naturally, he can hardly resist opening it, though he has no idea where it has come from. Inside he finds the memorabilia of the life of Louise Brunet, a Frenchwoman who lived much of her life stifled by a boring marriage and the staid affairs of a housewife. But Louise is innately passionate, having loved her young cousin, a soldier killed in World War I, and later developing illicit feelings for her neighbor. As Trevor unravels Louise’s story, he finds that one of his own is just beginning.

This was quite an odd book to start out with. Much of the beginning is actually written in second person and I can’t recall the last time I read a book that had such a strong component written like that. I must confess it threw me and I wasn’t sure I would like it, simply because it was so confusing. I wanted to have concrete facts, not have this peculiar vagueness. Lucky for me, and for the book, it all settles after the first quarter of the book or so. I figured out who all of the characters were and understood what the book was trying to do. After that, I enjoyed it a lot more. The book is composed of several different types of writing, between normal prose, letters, and the second person explorations of what’s inside the box.

One of my very favourite aspects of this book was the way that Trevor crafts Louise’s story from her memorabilia. I don’t know about you, but I do sometimes think about what I keep and what it says about me; this story is that writ large, an attempt to derive a woman’s life simply from the objects and letters she kept over the course of her life. There are pictures of all of the objects and I had a lot of fun puzzling over the photographs and examining each object in detail. It’s certainly fun for those of us who hoard to think that someday, someone might make something of all of those little treasures.

Another very appealing part of the book is Louise’s story itself. It’s impossible not to feel for her, even in contemplating adultery, because she is a vibrant person. I felt as though she’d been cheated by life, robbed of her love, and then had much of her spirit taken out of her. But she still leaps off the page with her strong character. I had the feeling that if life had treated her a little differently, she could have been a wonderful woman.

13, Rue Therese is an imaginative look back at the life of a Frenchwoman who survived much of nineteenth century history. Though confusing at first, it swiftly resolves and becomes a pleasant story of discovery and passion. Recommended.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free for review from Amazon Vine.


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