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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review and ARC Giveaway: 13, rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro

This is a beautifully written and marvelously different read.
13, rue Thérèse: A Novel by Elena Mauli Shapiro

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; 1 edition (February 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316083283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316083287
      Genre: Fiction
      My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0

    Hachette Description:
    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.
Review: This is a haunting, imaginative and lyrical story.

Trevor, an American scholar and translator, finds a box of mementoes belonging to a stranger. He proceeds to describe each article from the box as if placing a puzzle piece to form a picture. Yet, it is a life that he creates as he goes along.  There are photos of Louise and her father; photos of soldiers from WWI. Letters telling about the experience of the young man at war, including horrors and fears. There is a uniquely crafted gift made from the instruments of war and a silk handkerchief. Each has a story that Trevor shares - each a meaning in Louise’s life.

Don’t expect a romance as the love affair in the real time life of Trevor is merely a flash in the story. The portrayal of Louise is more a memoir then a simple romance.  There is love and pain and longing and guilt – lots of very normal emotions the reader can relate to. There is an early distance romance with a cousin who dies at war. There is sadness over never bearing a child. There is a teen girl, Garance, who Louise has been giving piano lessons to for years and who is a friend and an admirer. There is the sexy neighbor and sensuality and ultimately sin. There is Louise’s mischievous nature making false confessions and later making true confessions when the sins become real.

Trevor becomes so wrapped up in the story he creates for Louise that he enters her life in cameo, ghostly appearances. The life he (and the author) creates is such a real image that you have to remind yourself that it is all a fiction. It is interesting to think that the character created is presented from the view of a man imagining the longings and lustful thoughts of a woman. Although it is really a female author inside the mind of a man imagining the life of a woman.  Sort of a layered picture you could say.

I really enjoyed the clean, lyrical flow of the writing and the historical details and images that were revealed in the puzzle pieces.  The whole story portrays a slice of life in a time and in a country that I don’t read much of.  The author uses an unusual method of presentation through the objects found in the box of keepsakes.  I may not agree with the morality of the fantasy but still I found this to be a unique reading experience. I recommend that you read the print book because the pictures add impact and visual focus to make the life of Louise even more real.

The bullet pencil case:
Thank you to Regan Arthur Books division of Hachette for the book to read and review.


1.Mandatory entry: Visit the author's website - you will see many of the pictures from the story!  Tell me a picture you like or tell me something of interest you find there. (Maybe you will listen to one of the French audio/video clips.)
Please leave your e-mail!

2. For an extra entry: Tell me what memento might be found in a box of your keepsakes. I have some foreign coins and some shells in mine even though they wouldn't mean anything to anyone but me.

3. For an extra entry: look at the reading guide found on the Hachette book page (you have to download the document) and tell me a question you liked or something you find in the interview there.

4. For an extra entry, become a follower or tell me if you are already a follower.

5. For two extra entries, blog, facebook, tweet (any of those networks!) about this giveaway and tell me where you did.

(Six total entries possible.)
It is not necessary to use separate entries unless you want them in different chronological order.

* This contest is open to US and Canada only. (So sorry this can't be international. The book is available at Book Depository though.)
* No P.O. Boxes Please - for shipping reasons.
* This contest will close 10:00 PM (Central) on March 18, 2011.
The winner will be randomly selected from all entries.

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