Thursday, April 12, 2012

The House I Loved - Tatiana De Rosnay (Audio)

Several years ago, my book club read Tatiana De Rosnay's "Sarah's Key", a popular selection.  There were parts of that story that I loved...WWII, little Sarah and her heartbreaking story...but parts I didn't like.  While most people undeniably loved it, I was ambivalent about reading more from the author.  


But recently she published this, and I thought the premise was intriguing (Paris in the 1800's).  The audio was only five discs long (a long walk and a thorough housecleaning), and Heather loaned it to me, so I was convinced.  


Synopsis: It is 1860 and the old Paris is being razed for the sake of progress.  Entire neighborhoods are being destroyed to make room for wider boulevards and improved sewer systems, per the orders of Emperor Napoleon III.  Amidst the destruction sits an old house occupied by Rose Bazelet, who refuses to give up her family home and her memories to this movement.  She takes refuge in the basement, and writes a long letter to her dead husband Armand.


Rose reflects back on everything that the house on rue Childebert has witnessed.  It saw the rise and fall of various political parties, it saw the French Revolution, the new democratic institutions, and Belle Epoque.  It was originally in her husband's family for generations.  Rose made a life there with Armand, had two children, made lifelong friends, and lost loved ones in this house.  The house also closely guarded a secret of Rose's that she has never told a single soul, until she reveals it in a last confession in her letter.  


As a testament to De Rosnay's time spent living in Paris and her love for all things French, she brings this time period to life for us, and into one life that was destroyed by its modernization.


My thoughts:  Even though I have never actually visited the City of Lights, I find Paris an intriguing setting.  It has so much potential in a book to become its own character, with its culture and its food and its reputation of romance.  (Coincidentally, while I was listening to this book, I watched the movie "Midnight in Paris"...strange how your life finds themes serendipitously).  In this sense, the book charmed me, and educated me about a part of Paris' history I knew nothing about.


The characters, however, mostly felt two dimensional to me.  Perhaps this was because most of the novel was an older woman sitting in a basement reflecting back on her life, most of the characters failed to come to life for me.  I did appreciate Rose's best friend, Alexandrine, who was headstrong and tenacious...a  feminist before her time.


In the end, this was an enjoyable and sweet read.


A few words about the audio production:  Our narrator for this production was Kate Reading, who has a lovely accent and has a resume filled with classics, which is a good fit.  I wouldn't describe her voice as distinctive, but is pleasant to listen to.


3.5 out of 5 stars    


      

14 comments:

Iris on Books said...

I have not read Sarah's Key and I'm somehow reluctant to read it. Which of the two books would you say you prefered? Something about the setting of Paris at the middle of the 19th century makes me more eager to read this. I'm sorry to hear the characters remained two dimensional though. I think this will be one of those "if I come across it accidentally" books.

Also, I know I am slow, but I never realised you and Heather live close enough to borrow each other books. That must be wonderful, to have bookish conversations with each other.

bermudaonion said...

You've never been to Paris? You need to remedy that! I listened to the author's last book (The Best Kept Secret or something like that) and wasn't wowed by it so haven't been tempted by this one.

Beth F said...

Kate Reading is a favorite of mine.

What's with Paris these days? I just reviewed a Paris memoir and got another one in the mail yesterday. The world's gone Paris crazy.

Jenny said...

I haven't really been interested in this one so I'll probably just pass.. I do want to read Sarah's Key though.

It's so true about having serendipitous themes.. I was going to write a post about a few occurrences lately where I'm reading a book and it talks about some random thing that was just talked about in the last book I read, etc. It's funny.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I had a similar reaction to Sarah's Key. Loved the history part, but the modern day story line just didn’t work for me. So I haven’t sought out any of her work. This might be worth picking up if I come across it. I do love Paris.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Interesting - and I agree with Kathy re Paris, but let's make it a blogger road trip! :--)

reviewsbylola said...

I loved Sarah's Key but I hadn't realized the author had published other books. I'll have to think on this one a bit because I am not sure I am convinced that I want to read it!

Zibilee said...

I also really liked Alexandrine, and felt that she was one of the stronger characters in the book. It was a pleasant listen for me, but I don't think I enjoyed it as much as Sarah's Key, which I also had some issues with. I am glad that this was a fast little jaunt into Paris for you!

Jo-Jo said...

Like you, I didn't love Sarah's Key either. I enjoyed the Holocaust part of that novel, but could have done without the other stuff. I am listening to this audio right now and I've enjoyed this one more as it goes along. I'm definitely liking it more than A Secret Kept.

Ti said...

You've never been to Paris? You've been everywhere!! I really want to go, myself.

I had no idea that this book had anything to do with the razing of the city. Sounds really good.

Julie P. said...

Despite not being thrilled with this, it does sound like it might be a worthwhile listen.

caite said...

Paris...didn't I just see that the French are the rudest people to tourists?

Tasha B. said...

It bothers me that the people on the cover aren't wearing 19th-century clothing. :P

Jackie Bailey said...

Tatiana De Rosa is an author that keeps cropping up in my TBR. I think I have all of her books now, but haven't tried any yet. Doesn't sound as though I should start with this one though.