I received this book at SIBA 2010, with the explanation that it was different and creative. I'm always interested in anything with that description. The the reviews started coming in...Booking Mama, Devourer of Books, Beth Fish Reads. A year later (because that is just the kind of girl I am) I decide it might be the perfect thing to read for the readathon.
Now for the synopsis. I almost copied and pasted the publisher's summary, but I'm going to tackle it.
Synopsis: In a Paris office, a young clerk named Josianne has in her possession a memory box full of things that represent the life of Louise Brunet, a spitfire of a woman who lived between WWI and WWII. As she has done previous times, she places the box in a file cabinet, waiting to entrance the next young man with its secrets and charms.
That man would be the young and handsome historian, Trevor Stratton. He finds the box, and becomes obsessed with this woman Louise, imagining her life from the treasures she has left behind. The lines between fact and fantasy, and the past and present blur, and before long Trevor isn't sure what year it is, and whether he is in love with Louise, or young Josianne.
My thoughts: When I started this book, I was totally charmed. The pages have photos of the actual items in Louise's memory box (which actually DID come from a memory box obtained by the author from an upstairs neighbor who passed away). I guess I've come to find that I like pictures. They tell a story that goes beyond the word.
The character of Louise kept me on my toes, but I wasn't sure I liked her. Having lost her true love, who died in the war, she is married to a kind man who is in business with her father. Louise is bored though, and goes looking for action with a neighbor. She is full of energy, and opinions, and seemed pretty selfish.
And I become confused. Was this story about Louise just in Trevor's mind? Did he time travel? Is he insane? By the end, I really had no idea what was going on. It was wispy and magical, but if I had to explain it to someone, I couldn't.
There is also quite a bit of sex in the story. Whether it was real or not, I gave up guessing. But the descriptions are graphic. Like Jackie Collins graphic.
I loved the imagery of Paris during Louise's life. The grief and guilt that accompanies war, the joys found in music and friends, and the person one becomes when at war. But the story itself went from something clever and charming to an ambiguous tale of (maybe) a lurid affair and a spoiled unmoored woman who is unhappy with her comfortable life in Paris.
I am definitely in the minority on this one, and if you want to hear from a few bloggers that loved the book, please take a look a those I've linked at the beginning of the review. I'm going to hang on to the book and perhaps read it again, when I am less distracted. My best advice, if you are interested in reading this, would be to familiarize yourself with the plot, and read it when you can offer your undivided attention.
3 out of 5 stars