This week I read The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay. It is the poignant story about a family home's impending destruction due to Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann's complete redesign of Paris in the 1860s. Rose Bazelet tells her story in a series of letters to her deceased husband Armand. She also shares letters written to her from other characters, and the narrative reminds me of The Guernsey Literaray and Potato Peel Pie Society. The technique works equally well in The House I Loved; Rose's letters are filled with love, sorrow, and grief.
Rose is a very complicated character, and I am impressed with how de Rosnay reveals so many facets of her personality through her letters. She is only one of three residents on her street, Rue Childebert, determined to take a stand against the government. At almost sixty, Rose shows a strength of character that is admirable as she refuses to give-up her home up until the very end. The content of most of Rose's letters describe her relationships with family, friends, and people from the neighborhood. I particularly enjoyed reading about her friendship with one of her tenants, a flower shop owner named Alexandrine. Young enough to her her daughter, Rose learns so much about the language of flowers by spending time in the shop. Rose also becomes a voracious reader, a pastime Armand enjoyed. Although she never was a reader when Armand was alive, the bookstore owner, Monsieur Zamaretti, introduces her to a whole new world, beginning with Flaubert's Madame Bovary.
Because the book is sad, I do not recommend this as a beach or lake read. It is a fantastic book, though, and I hope that you will read it. Plus it is a very quick read. :D So steep a pot of tea (preferably Marriage Freres' Lapsang Souchong, Rose's favorite) and savor de Rosnay's beautiful prose!