Title: 13, rue Thérèse
Author: Elena Mauli Shapiro
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Publication Date: February 2, 2011
Hardcover: 288 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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 Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro is a beautiful book, but when coupled with the knowledge the author provides at the end of the book about her inspiration for writing her story, the impact is brilliant. The title is where author Elena Mauli Shapiro lived in Paris and the box is quite real, however the story is a work of pure fiction based on the author’s interpretation of the objects contained within the box. 13, rue Thérèse is a tender, beautifully woven story of love and intrigue and of American professor Trevor Stratton in Paris who comes across a mysterious box hidden by Josianne for him to discover. The reader soon learns the box at one time belonged to Louise Brunet, an extraordinary woman who survived both World Wars, loved and lost and a woman who kept a few treasures within this rather ordinary box. Soon Stratton becomes enamored with the life he believes Louise Brunet lived and begins to tell Louise’s story as he sees it. 13, rue Thérèse is filled with photographs of the box and the contents of this mysterious box further adding to the air of mystery and intrigue with a hint of the exotic. By the end of the book I found myself wishing I had known Louise Brunet for she lived through so very much and I also found myself pondering what impact my life would have if all that remained were some precious mementos in a box. I fear it would prove rather dull in comparison to Brunet’s life, but would she have said the same, it is impossible to know but raises an intriguing question, what legacy do we leave behind when everything else is gone? On the surface I thought 13, rue Thérèse would be a sweet book, one I would enjoy reading and then move on, I did not imagine the impact such a compact and seemingly innocuous looking book could have on my life. 13, rue Thérèse is a book that will stay with me for an exceedingly long time and I hope each reader has the same reaction. I recommend 13, rue Thérèse to all readers and strongly encourage discussion groups to read this book; the depths beg to be discussed.
Elena Mauli Shapiro grew up in Paris, and currently lives in California with her husband. She has accumulated literature and writing degrees in and around the Bay Area (Stanford, Mills, Davis). Her novel 13 rue Thérèse will be published in February 2011. For more information visit Elena Mauli Shapiro’s blog.
I received a complimentary ARC of 13, rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro from Reagan Arthur Books, Hachette Book Groups to offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.