13 rue, Therese

Book Source: Ms. Laurie
This was a book lent to me by a dear friend of the family - one who loves Paris but who gets the utmost rarest delight in traveling there (which is still more often than I do). Because of this, one year her sister gave her a stack of Paris-themed books. This was one she hadn't gotten around to reading yet, but on a visit she allowed me to take it home.
I love a good historic novel, and this was an odd one. But when I say "odd," what I really mean to say is that it's a bit of a curiosity. In fact, if you like books with puzzles and artifacts to look through while reading it, this is a good choice - and unusual because they are usually more thriller-mystery-adventure stuff. And this was... really hard to peg down: not a romance, not really chick-lit, but I don't know many men who would willingly read it without a ton of convincing first. Literary fiction?
The premise of this novel is that an American scholar visits a library in Paris and is inflicted with a box of letters and personal items to sort through, and threading them together tells us the story of a Parisian woman named Louise. (Actually, a cool side note is that the author actually grew up in the same building, a floor below, the real Louise. Though this book only borrows and fictionalizes the woman's name and the mementos she left behind when she died)
Louise is in an - well, not unhappy marriage, but an unsatisfying one. Here first love was forbidden to her - her own cousin, who died during World War 1. She later settled into a marriage with a young man her father approved of, and she was content with it until a young family moves into an empty apartment in the building which she lives and she begins a secret correspondence (resulting in an inevitable love affair) with the father and husband. (Spoiler: somehow she manages to keep her marriage from unraveling afterwards)
It's a quick read - and since I read it at the same time I read A Tale For The Time Being, it's a little hard not to compare the two even if they have nothing in common - which seems really silly, now that I think about it. Both books were serious, but this one was a little weaker of the two. It's kind of like a candy truffle of a novel - decadent and rich, and if you let it melt on your tongue your knees will buckle, but you kind of feel a little guilty for enjoying it so much.

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