Sunday, August 28, 2011

"13, rue Therese"

When I saw this book listed in the "new books" section of our library's newsletter last spring, I knew it would be one I would want to read - just by the cover. It finally became available (without being on the wait list - something I seldom do) last week.

Upon reflection, I realize I was expecting something along the lines of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. And while Elena Mauli Shapiro's first novel was not the read Elegance was, I still enjoyed 13, rue Therese.

Shapiro grew up in the 80's and lived at 13, rue Therese. When her upstairs neighbor, Louise Brunet, died and no family claimed her possessions, tenants of the building were allowed to help themselves. Shapiro's mother took a box of mementos - some of them dating back to WWI. The author used photos of the letters, gloves, pressed flowers, coins and post cards found in the box in her novel which added to the realism of a life imagined.

This fictionalized life of Louise is told by Trevor Stratton, an American faculty member of a present day French university. He is allowed to "find" the box in his office by the current owner, Josianne, the secretary in his department. (Each year she leaves the box for a different professor to determine their level of romanticism.) Stratton is fascinated by the mementos and begins piecing together the life of their owner, Madame Louise Brunet. In sharing his findings with Josianne, he realizes she is the one who left the box of artifacts for him to find and a romance buds.

I believe I would have enjoyed this book more if it had been told by Josianne - from a woman's imaginings rather than a man's. Or told simply by the author herself without the complications of too many layers. Otherwise, I really liked the imagined life of a real person known to us only by a little collection of her life.

Scones and Bones, Laura Childs' Tea Shop Mystery # 12, was available - unusual since the library just obtained it this month - so I enjoyed more of Theodosia Browning's murder mystery solving. As I said in my "Live to Read" blog, I think I enjoy her books more for the information about the different teas than the mysteries. Dominique wasn't here to try any of the recipes from the back of the book, but if she had been, we might have tried making the Easy Chai Tiramisu. Maybe I'll write the recipe down before I take the books back tomorrow.

The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell is one of her stand alone books. I did not find this novel as suspenseful as most of the ones by her that I've read. The main characters are sisters who share a murderous secret - one that is never talked about, but which figures prominently in their lives as they each search for love. It's not a book about romance. It's not one of Rendell's usual psychological thrillers, but it is still worth reading for her intertwining characters and subplots.

One of the blurbs I read about my new fave author, Brian Freeman, compared him to Daniel Silva, an author I haven't read before, so I decided to try one of Silva's many novels. I chose The Marching Season only because of the subject matter - Northern Ireland's ongoing religious and political conflict. (See my July 12, 2010 blog.)

There was a time in my life when I loved the James Bond and Jason Bourne books. The counter-espionage culture was exciting. I was more attuned to what was going on in the political world. Now, I find, I'm less interested in the world stage. Perhaps that is why I found this thriller less than thrilling - too many assassinations for this old reader.

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