Thursday, October 7, 2010

13 rue Thérèse

"La vie est la fleur dont l'amour est le miel."
~Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr

I had high hopes for 13 rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro. This eye-catching, antique-looking book arrived gift wrapped in matching checkered paper, along with a small tin of candy and a personal note. While I did enjoy it, I can't say that I was wowed by it. I found it clever, but I didn't truly love it.

13 rue Thérèse
is mostly narrated by a character who's a scholar of French literature, Trevor Stratton. In letters addressed to "Sir", he tells a story within the story about Louise Brunet, a Frenchwoman who lived through both World Wars, based on a box full of artifacts, which his secretary, Josianne Noireau, has placed in a cabinet for him to surreptitiously find, open, and examine.

Perhaps I'm too old-fashioned or "old school", but overall it felt too much like traditional male fantasy to me, because it includes a bold sexual proposition from Louise to someone she has just met, adultery, lying "inappropriately" in confession, and a bit of lesbianism. I'm sure Louise was supposed to seem ahead of her time, especially sexually, but it just didn't seem all that believable to me. In this Parisian story, passions don't simmer but ignite instantly, without much thought about repercussions. But, I guess the story is male fantasy after all, given that Trevor is the one telling the story.

For me, the most successful aspect of the book is the design, the imaginative and unique layout. Many of the chapters have French titles, and sprinkled throughout the book are lovely, old style photos, letters, postcards, and miscellaneous illustrations--contents of the box Trevor has discovered--along with vibrant prose, and copious footnotes. Visually it's quite nice, although some of the footnotes were long and it was a strain for me to read the tiny print. I didn't love love love 13 rue Therese, but if you are looking for a light, amusing book, saturated with sex, then this might be the book for you. It will be available to the public in February of 2011.

Special thanks to Reagan Arthur for sending me this book, my first (and hopefully not last) one for The Reagan Arthur Books Challenge.


  1. Sorry to hear this was a disappointment. Because you're right--that cover is quite enticing!

  2. The look and design of the book are intriguing-looks like it is from the 1920s

  3. It sounds like an interesting book! It's probably written by a woman, by the looks of it. But still you think that it is "a male fantasy"? I myself don't like books with too much sex or violence. But.... everyone is entitled to read what one wants.

  4. I wondered about this one so I was happy to finally read a review. Does not sound like a book I'll be moving to the top of the TBR list soon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. I'm disappointed that this book isn't better because I've been excited about it since it's set in Paris. Thanks for a thoughtful review.

  6. I think I'll give this one a miss. I have to admit that I don't even find the cover appealing.

  7. I just got a copy of this book and have been looking forward to it, so it's a shame to hear that it's not as good as you had been expecting. I will have to let you know what I think of it after I am done with it. Great review. I love that you are totally honest about it.

  8. These are my thoughts about the book. Others might love it. And I think this writer has a great deal of potential for the future because this is a very creative debut. It just wasn't my cup of tea.

    Thanks for your comments. More welcomed.

  9. Very interesting review. I admit that I have a few concerns after reading your review, but I'm still looking forward to it.

  10. Julie, I look forward to your review!

  11. That certainly does sound straight out of a male fantasy! Sorry the book was disappointing.

  12. I loved the concept of this book but I too am left wanting a little more. I am thoroughly confused as to who is the voice of this story. I am in the middle of the book and ended up googling it to see other people's thoughts. I can see Trevor's voice in the letters he sends to 'Sir'. However, I am confused as to whom the voice of the remaining narrative belongs. Perhaps by the end all will be made clear.


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