Friday, December 30, 2011

13 rue Therese - Elena Mauli Shapiro

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

          

16 comments:

Jenny said...

I couldn't get into this one! The format was too weird, I guess. I think I read maybe half but I don't even remember that much of it.

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

I think I have this on my bookshelf. I am thinking I won't enjoy it either. I am not a fan of graphic sex in a book. I always think it cheapens the story.

bermudaonion said...

I liked this book more than you did, but I didn't love it. I thought it was very sexual, too, and was surprised most people didn't mention that in their reviews.

Beth F said...

Although I liked this better than you did, I agree that the ending was less than satisfactory.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Sometimes I have to force myself not to read the publisher's summary because they ARE usually so good and so much easier than trying to write our own!

Kimberly said...

I was captured by your words, "different and creative" and drawn to the image on the cover. However, after reading your review, I know I would not enjoy this book. I am another who does not prefer a lot of sexual content. Additionally, I have no patience for selfish characters. I do not want to be irritated while reading a story. However, it sounds as though the history and geographical content would be of interest. Oh well. This is better for me as I've had little to no time to read for pleasure.

Sandy, I wish you and your family a wonderful and happy new year!

Zibilee said...

I have heard some less than pleasant things about this book, and most of the reactions to it seem to have been tepid. I am all for unusual and creative, but I have the impression that the ending is sort of like an implosion and doesn't really make sense, which would really annoy me. Great and very honest review today, Sandy!

I wish you and your family a very Happy New Year!!

Marie said...

sounds like good advice, and thanks for the heads up on the graphic content!

heidenkind said...

I'm a little on the fence about this one. It sounds like it could be so fun--Paris! Photographs--but then it could also be really gimmicky. IDK. I'll probably waffle about it indefinitely. :P

Trisha said...

Well now, I'm not a huge fan of books where you aren't sure what's actually happening, so....

Alyce said...

Now I'm going to have to read some Jack Collins books just to get that reference. ;) I have read good things about this one too, but hadn't been sure it was for me anyway. Maybe I'll try it from the library some day when I'm feeling very adventurous.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I'll set this one aside for now...I have added tons of new stuff to my WishList from everyone's "best of 2011" lists :/

Anita said...

While this sounds interesting therenarentoo many tepidreviewsnfor it to gonon my list. I alreadybhave a mountain of tbr. Thanks for your honesry.

Julie P. said...

I think your review is pretty spot on. I loved the premise of the scrapbook things, but I didn't think the execution quite lived up to it.

farmlanebooks said...

I wasn't a fan of this book either. Perhaps I didn't pay enough attention to it, but I was confused and could never really connect with it. At least you know you're not alone. :-)

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Interesting - I thought I was the last person to (yet) read this book :)

A few times I've invested a lot of time in a book that started out strong, then lost me (lost my interest) about half-way through. These are more disappointing than those you don't like at the outset, aren't they?!