The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

April 2, 2012

The House I Loved

As it turns out, although there were some flowers, and Worth dresses, and books, ant gilded drawing rooms, The House I Loved {by Tatiana de Rosnay} is not as gentle a book as it seemed it would be. It's a wonderful premise for a novel:  when Rose Bazalet and her neighbors are told that their houses -- and their street, all of the neighborhood -- will be razed to make room for the new avenues Baron Haussman is designing for Paris, she refuses to leave the house that she and her family loved.

The story is told almost entirely in Rose's voice, as she writes a series of letters to her late (and beloved) husband, Armand. She tells him what has been happening since he died, about the friendships that she has made and the devastation {very powerfully described} created by the new plan for the city.  There are flashbacks to their meeting and marriage, Rose's cold mother and her kind mother-in-law, and the sudden death of their young son. As she hides in the basement, a kindly tramp beings her food and watches over her, and there is a wonderful scene where Rose and her neighbors walk across the frozen Seine on a very cold winter day. It's a book full of little vignettes, and historical details, and a chance to spend time in 19th-century Paris.

But it is also clear that there is something that Rose needs to confess, as she tries to gather her thoughts and finish her last letter before the house is torn down over her. What she tells him seems a little forced and gratuitous, a second story that, after everything else that has happened, takes something away from the first one.

I listened to The House I Loved as an audiobook, narrated by Kate Reading, and it works very well in this format.


JoAnn said...

This sounds like a good candidate for a Paris in July read/listen!

Bellezza said...

I can imagine that listening to the letters being read would make their author come more alive. Sometimes, audio is the perfect format for a book (Room was a book which was that way for me.)

Happy Easter! I've missed you!

Thank you for visiting!

Card Catalog

#6barsets #emma200th #maisie #PalliserParty #Woolfalong A.A. Milne Agatha Christie Alexander McCall Smith Allison Pearson Amy Lowell Angela Thirkell Ann Bridge Anne Perry Anthony Trollope Anticipation Armchair Travels Art Audiobooks Barbara Pym Biography Bloomsbury Bookish things Boston British Library Crime Classics Cambridge Cathleen Schine Charles Dickens Coffee-table books Cookbooks D.E. Stevenson Deborah Crombie Donna Leon Dorothy L. Sayers Dorothy Whipple E.H. Young E.M. Delafield E.M. Forster Edith Wharton Elinor Lipman Elizabeth Gaskell Elizabeth Jenkins Elizabeth Taylor Elizabeth von Arnim Ellizabeth Taylor Emily Dickinson Ernest Hemingway Eudora Welty Fiction Films Food from Books Food Writing Found on a Blog George Eliot Georgette Heyer Helen Ashton Henry James History Homes and Haunts Ideas Imogen Robertson Isabella Stewart Gardner Jacqueline Winspear Jane Austen Joanna Trollope Julia Child Language Laurie Colwin Letters Library Books Literature Louise Andrews Kent Louise Penny M.F.K. Fisher Madame Bovary Madame de Sévigné Madame de Staël Margaret Kennedy Margery Sharp Martha Grimes Mary Shelley Memoirs Miss Read My Year with Edith Mysteries Nathaniel Hawthorne Nonfiction Nook Only Connect P.D. James Paris in July Persephones Plays Poetry Pride and Prejudice 200 Queen Victoria R.I.P. Reading England 2015 Ruth Rendell Sarah Orne Jewett Short Stories Switzerland Sylvia Beach Team Middlemarch The 1924 Club The Brontës the Carlyles The Classics Club Thomas Hardy Virago Virginia Woolf Washington Irving Willa Cather William Maxwell Winifred Peck Winifred Watson