“13, rue Thérèse” by Elena Mauli Shapiro
“American academic Trevor Stratton discovers a box full of artifacts from World War I 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 feisty, charming Frenchwoman who lived through both World Wars.
As Trevor examines and documents the relics the box offers up, he begins to imagine the story of Louise Brunet’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 Thérèse. The more time he spends with the objects though, the truer his imaginings of Louise’s life become, and the more he notices another alluring Frenchwoman: Josianne, his clerk, who planted the box in his office in the first place, and with whom he finds he is falling in love.”
“13 rue Therese” is the name of the street in Paris, France where the author, Ms. Shapiro, lived and where she obtained a box of mementos that were left behind after the death of her elderly neighbour, Louise Brunet. This small box included such things as old love letters from WW1, mesh church gloves, old portraits, a handkerchief, some coins, calling cards, a rosary, and a very interesting pencil case made of two bullet cartridges that were fused end to end and then engraved. Ms. Shapiro had no knowledge of the story behind these articles so she made up her own story of what could have occurred based on the mementos in this box. In this book, the author has this box of artifacts discovered by an American professor and translator, Trevor Stratton, who has recently arrived at a Paris university. Ms. Shapiro has basically two stories going on at the same time – that of Trevor and of Louise, and often intertwines their stories with the contents of this box. For the story of Louise, the author reveals a few of the articles in the box, often showing pictures of these articles and making the necessary English translations were needed, and then she tells her story before she reveals a few of the next items.
The author is a genius, in my opinion, in her attention to details and in her descriptive embellishments in making a story around a box of seemingly unrelated artifacts. She also encourages the reader to really observe things in a portrait that would be easily overlooked. She can transport the reader’s imagination so that he or she feels drawn into the story by all five senses.
I found this book difficult to get into. My personal preference is a higher action story. Someone who really enjoys a more documentary, description-filled story, that combines horrific memories of war and romantic passion, could be really drawn into this novel.
* Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a free sample to facilitate my review. This post reflects my honest, personal opinion and experience with the product which may differ from yours. Product information courtesy of the sponsor. No monetary compensation was provided for this post.
***** I was given the opportunity to review this product because of my membership at The Product Review Place.