by Elena Mauli Shapiro, Reagan Arthur Books; February 2011
The concept for this novel was quite good but the execution just wasn’t there for me
Trevor Stratton is American academic newly arrived in Paris for a sabbatical at a Parisian university. Unbeknownst to him, Josietta a secretary at the university, places a box in his desk drawer. Upon finding it, he discovers memorabilia that belonged to Louise Brunet, a young Parisian girl who was born at the turn of the twentieth century. Stratton studies the pictures of WWI battlefields and other items and invents a life for Louise that includes a young lover, Camille who dies in battle, an unhappy arranged marriage with Henri, a potential lesbian lover in her student Garance, and an assignation with a neighbor at their apartment building 13, rue Thérèse. He shares portions of his imaginative story with Josietta who has been judging his worthiness as a romantic partner based on his reactions to the items in the box. The book is beautifully illustrated with the pictures and other items from the box. There are also links to a website where the box memorabilia can be viewed in 3-D.
Unfortunately I could not join in the generally euphoric reviews of this book on blogs and in print. It held a bit too much fantasy for me. Somewhere in the middle of this story Stratton began to confuse his life with Louise’s life and that’s about where I got off the boat. I had trouble following the narrative unsure if we were in the 1920s or present day. The concept for this novel was quite good (a story told around newly discovered intriguing items) but the execution just wasn’t there for me. So can the true romantics out there who loved this book comment and tell me where I’ve gone wrong?
I read a copy of this book borrowed from the Free Library of Philadelphia.