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Rose Bazelet is determined to fight against the destruction of her family home until the very end; as others flee, she stakes her claim in the basement of the old house on rue Childebert, ignoring the sounds of change that come closer and closer each day. Attempting to overcome the loneliness of her daily life, she begins to write letters to Armand, her beloved late husband. And as she delves into the ritual of remembering, Rose is forced to come to terms with a secret that has been buried deep in her heart for thirty years. Tatiana de Rosnay's "The House I Loved" is both a poignant story of one woman's indelible strength, and an ode to Paris, where houses harbor the joys and sorrows of their inhabitants, and secrets endure in the very walls...
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-12-12
- Reviewer: Staff
Parisian Rose Bazelet is a woman in mourning, for her husband and son, both long dead; for her distant daughter; and because of Napoleon III’s ambitious urban planning agenda in the mid-19th century, an enormous project that could destroy her beloved family estate. With the planners already leveling nearby houses, Rose hides in her cellar and writes letters to her deceased husband about her struggle to save their home. As the letters continue, and destruction grows near, Rose remembers her married life. With the planners “rattling about at the entrance” and taking her friend Alexandrine, who has come to rescue her, by surprise, Rose reveals to her late husband the dark secret she could never bring herself to tell him when he was alive. Though bestseller de Rosnay’s epistolary narrative is slow to build, it’s fraught with drama, as the Sarah’s Key author aims to create an immersive experience in a hugely transformative period in Paris (see Paul La Farge’s Haussmann, or the Distinction), when the city was torn between modernity and tradition. In Rose, one gets the clear sense of a woman losing her place in a changing world, but this isn’t enough to make up for a weak narrative hung entirely on the eventual reveal of a long-buried secret. (Feb.)
La résistance of old Paris
A slim narrative with much of the story told through letters written by and to widow and lifelong Parisian Rose Bazelet, Tatiana de Rosnay’s The House I Loved is a tale as dark and haunting as the Edgar Allan Poe stories full of ghastly secrets that Rose so admires.
Readers learn early on that Rose has a ghastly secret of her own—and it’s not just that she’s hiding in the cellar of her beloved, three-story home on the rue Childebert while Emperor Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte and Baron Georges-Eugene Haussman tear Paris down rue by rue in order to rebuild a modern city.
Replacing interweaving streets and medieval buildings with straight boulevards and modern facades appalls Rose. Even though her home is in the path of destruction, she refuses to leave, relying on a ragpicker to bring her food, water and coal to keep warm. Also sustaining her are memories, as revealed in the letters she writes to her dead husband.
Fans of de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key will not find the same kind of compelling, page-turning urgency in The House I Loved. Its pace is slow—meandering even, like the walks Rose used to take along the Seine on warm summer evenings. However, the details de Rosnay provides allow readers not only to see Rose in her fine silk bonnets, but to feel her emotions.