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13, rue Thérèse: A Novel Hardcover – February 2, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Shapiro's debut, an imaginative, sensual rendering of a Parisian woman's life, is told through the voice of Trevor Stratton, a young American scholar and translator working at a university in Paris. Stratton finds a box filled with objects dating back to WWI that once belonged to Louise Brunet, and his fascination with the box's contents—postcards, handkerchiefs, love letters, and other vintage keepsakes—leads him to imagine what Brunet's life in Paris might have been. What Stratton isn't aware of at first is that the box was left for him by Josianne, a secretary at the university, who is using the box and its contents to measure Stratton's romantic worthiness. As Stratton unfolds Brunet's story against the background of WWI battlefields and several inventions—a lover, Camille Victor, who dies in battle; a resulting unhappy marriage to husband Henri; and a passionate affair with a married neighbor, Xavier Langlais—he gradually comes to realize that Josianne is the source of his archival inspiration. The book is illustrated with photos of the actual objects owned by Shapiro, cleverly used as the novel's framing device. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

This ambitious first novel from Paris-born Shapiro centers on a box of WWI-era artifacts, depicted in color throughout the book, found by American academic in Paris Trevor Stratton (it was purposefully left for him by his mysterious new secretary). From photographs and miscellaneous objects, Stratton pieces together “a record” of the life of their owner, Madame Louise Brunet—a real person, incidentally, who lived in the Paris apartment above Shapiro’s, and whose mysterious, unclaimed belongings Shapiro really owns. At turns truly exciting and overflowing with imagination, the novel is full of intriguing characters: Louise’s boring husband, Henri; her talented young piano student, Garance; and her new neighbor, Xavier, to whom she is magnetically drawn. This gimmicky tale unravels somewhat when Stratton, apparently in a fever-dream, begins to confuse his life with Louise’s and implicates himself in the history in which he’s become so involved. Puzzle-lovers will be curious to check out the book’s online counterpart, in which they can view 3-D versions of the book’s images. --Annie Bostrom

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; 1 edition (February 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316083283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316083287
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,244,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elena Mauli Shapiro grew up in Paris, and currently lives in California with her husband. She has amassed literature and writing degrees in and around the Bay Area (Stanford, Mills, Davis). She is the author of the novels IN THE RED and 13 RUE THERESE, both released by Little, Brown.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Leslie VINE VOICE on February 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This beautifully written and illustrated book is a magical tale woven around a box of artifacts owned by the author. They tell the story of Louise Brunet, a woman who lived in the early part of the 20th century, as imagined by Trevor Stratton, an American academic working in present day Paris.

Trevor discovers a mysterious box of letters and mementoes in his office that was secretly left there by his secretary. He becomes enchanted by the objects; old love letters, notes, faded photos, pieces of music even a pair of gloves. As he examines each of them he begins to write about their significance in a series of letters to someone identified only as `Sir' and in doing so creates the story of Louise. At the same time Trevor is becoming more aware of his secretary and the role she plays in his discovering the objects.

Louise is not what I would consider a typical woman of the 1920's. Her thoughts, desires and actions are more consistent with those of someone living today. But then I would remind myself that I was experiencing Trevor's fantasy of Louise's life. Childless and married to a man of her father's choosing, Louise suffered heartbreak when the love of her life was killed in The Great War. While she loves her husband, he is not the man of her dreams. She wants a child. She wants passion. She has neither.

Louise is an intriguing and complex woman; she also has a naughty streak. Thinking about a pair of lace gloves she is wearing while in church causes her mind to wander off on an imagined sexual fantasy. Another time she makes a false confession to shock a priest. She has a desire to sleep with her new neighbor and writes him anonymous letters while at the same time she invites him and his wife to dinner.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Novel Chatter on February 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
13 Rue Therese is a valentine to romance, lasting love and the art of the treasure hunt for the saved mementos that tell the stories of our lives.

I became aware of this book shortly after learning about the death of an elderly Parisian woman, and the discovery of her long abandoned apartment, a virtual time capsule of her life some seventy years ago. The two things had nothing to do with each other, except they were both about the bits of memories that make up our lives. My curiosity about 13 Rue Therese was peaked.

Elena Mauli Shapiro chose to tell the story of piano teacher Louise Brunet through the eyes of American professor Trevor Stratton. Statton uncovers an old box of mementos and his life if changed by the old pressed flowers, letters, cards, dated photographs and random tidbits that we hang on to for memories' sake. Trevor falls in love with the woman who treasured these pieces of a life remembered.

Shapiro brilliantly allows the reader to fall in love with Louise also, by showing us pictures of the actual items from the box. Each chapter is full of photos of documents, ink pens, a flowered handkerchief, a brooch, a rosary and the other wonderful things that draw the reader deeper into Louise's story.

Ms. Shapiro's website tells us that 13 Rue Therese is inspired by real life. She says:

"When I was a little girl growing up in Paris in the early eighties, an old woman who lived a few floors up from my apartment died alone. Her name was Louise Brunet. None of her remaining relatives came to fetch her belongings, so the landlord had to clear them all out. He let the other tenants in the building scavenge through her stuff and take home silverware, jewelry, whatever they wanted.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Alison's VINE VOICE on February 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A gift.

This special book got me out of a reading funk I had a few months ago. It came to me wrapped in beautiful paper with a note from the editor, Reagan Arthur. I opened it, hoping to discover something new and exciting. What I didn't realize at the time was that I would spend the entire 270 pages unwrapping this precious gift.

Each page brought something new - a photograph, a letter, a piece of fabric from a life of a woman I would never meet, a woman that was not even real, but a woman whom I would know.

This was the journey of Trevor Stratton, and it was my pleasure to take it with him. Stratton is an American professor living in Paris and one day he finds something in his office. Imagine finding a box of photographs and letters belonging to someone you don't know, and slowly learning about this person and falling in love with them.

Louise Brunet seemed like a typical girl in the 1920s...but as we unwrapped pieces of her life, we realized she was anything but typical. In the beginning of her story, she suffers loss and lives a simple life...but then things get saucy.

I don't want to give away too much of this book - I want you to unwrap this gift yourself!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bex @ Aurelia {Lit} on February 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"She will give him the office with the tall useless empty file cabinet in the corner. He will probably not think to open all the drawers and look in them his first day on the premises. But he will, eventually, discover a box tucked all the way into the darkness at the back of the bottom drawer, innocent-looking yet unexpected. How could one see such a think and then not take a little peek inside?" (~pg. 5)

So the plot begins.....a mysterious box of artifacts, strategically left for Trevor Stratton, a young American starting a new job in Paris. As he begins to peruse the letters, photos, trinkets, etc., he delves into the world of Louise Brunet, a Frenchwoman who lived in Paris during the first part of the 19th century, whose life was impacted by the Great War that devastated the world. As he ponders this woman and pieces together in his imagination the story of her life, her love, her loss, he becomes enamored with the history and sweeping romance that he uncovers.

The Review:

I did the unthinkable! I fell in love with the cover. An ultimate no-no. But come on - look at it. This cover is gorgeous! I look at it and the songs of Les Miserables start playing in my head... "Do you hear the people sing?" or "On my own, pretending he's besides me..." Okay, push pause on my brain iPod. It's actually set in Paris during World War I and World War II, and you can't help but feel the love and the loss that resonate in this girl's eyes. The sepia tint and the backlighting that makes those curls in her hair seems so soft just scream Historical Fiction. Naturally, I'm a big fan of this genre, and this novel was one I really, really, really wanted to love. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.
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