The House I Loved

The House I Loved

3.5 64
by Tatiana de Rosnay
     
 

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From Tatiana de Rosnay, the New York Times bestselling author of Sarah's Key and A Secret Kept, comes The House I Loved, an absorbing new novel about one woman's resistance during an époque that shook Paris to its very core

Paris, France: 1860s. Hundreds of houses are being razed, whole neighborhoods reduced to ashes.

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Overview

From Tatiana de Rosnay, the New York Times bestselling author of Sarah's Key and A Secret Kept, comes The House I Loved, an absorbing new novel about one woman's resistance during an époque that shook Paris to its very core

Paris, France: 1860s. Hundreds of houses are being razed, whole neighborhoods reduced to ashes. By order of Emperor Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann has set into motion a series of large-scale renovations that will permanently alter the face of old Paris, molding it into a "modern city." The reforms will erase generations of history—and in the midst of the tumult, one woman will take a stand.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“In her quietly elegant 11th novel, the bestselling author of Sarah's Key again explores the idea of home as both sanctuary and embodiment of history… [Rose's] letters, poetic and honest, reveal a world soon to be destroyed by progress. A mesmerizing look at how the homes and neighborhoods we occupy hold not only our memories but our secrets as well.” —People (3 out of 4 stars)

“De Rosnay’s delicacy and the flavor of her beloved Paris are everywhere in this brief but memorable book. Replete with treats, particularly for Paris-lovers—indeed for anyone wedded to a special place.” —Kirkus (starred review)

“Those who enjoyed Sarah's Key will recognize de Rosnay's love for her native France and appreciate the poignancy and tenacity of her characters.” —Booklist

“The core of Paris by a phenomenal novelist.” —Elle (France)

“Fraught with drama, as [de Rosnay] aims to create an immersive experience in a hugely transformative period in Paris…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.” —Publishers Weekly

“Whether you approve of Baron Haussmann's modernization of the French capital or not, Tatiana de Rosnay's new book, The House I Loved, is sure to enthrall those who want to learn more about this fascinating period in history.” —Out and About In Paris

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
As Rose Bazelet hides in the basement of her Paris home, she can hear the rumble of advancing work crews destroying buildings to make way for the grand boulevards as envisioned by Napoléon III and Baron Haussmann. To pass the time, she writes letters to her late husband, recalling their life together and the decade since he died. In her widowhood, she is befriended by a flower shop owner, who becomes like a daughter to her, and a bookstore proprietor, who introduces her to literature. She mourns the destruction of her neighborhood's familiar narrow streets and rails against changes imposed in the name of progress. Because the novel depends on Rose's perspective and memories, the characters and settings are curiously flat. Her alienation from her own daughter and deep bond with the florist seem equally arbitrary. Even the basic premise of Rose's refusal to abandon the house seems implausible, especially after she reveals the secret of the violence she suffered there decades earlier. VERDICT A strong marketing campaign and interest from fans of de Rosnay's popular Sarah's Key will undoubtedly spur demand for the title. However, many readers will likely be disappointed by de Rosnay's latest Paris novel, which relies more on telling than showing. [See Prepub Alert, 8/12/11.]—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Mankato
Kirkus Reviews
Amid Baron Haussmann's demolition of her quartier, a woman refuses to leave her home in de Rosnay's latest (Sarah's Key, 2008, etc.). During the reign of Napoleon III, his prefect Baron Haussmann embarked on a mammoth undertaking to modernize Paris. In order to construct the branching boulevard system Paris is now renowned for, entire neighborhoods of twisting cobbled alleyways and lanes were razed. The residents of these now-forgotten neighborhoods were displaced. For the aging widow Rose Bazelet, who has lived for decades in her well-appointed home on rue Childebert near the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, starting over somewhere else is out of the question. Rose's house, in addition to being her refuge from her difficult childhood with an unloving mother, has been the repository of her great loves and most significant memories: Her beloved mother-in-law died there, her husband Armand grew senile and died there, her children (her own unloved daughter Violette and favored son Baptiste, claimed by cholera at age 10) were born there. When the citizens of rue Childebert are first notified of the impending "expropriation" of their street, they assume their proximity to the Church will save them, but it is not to be. The restaurateur, hotelier, chocolatier, bookshop owner and other local merchants, including the florist, Rose's dearest friend Alexandrine, all vacate. Once peaceful, rue Childebert is now a wasteland of dust, falling rubble and clamorous demolition crews. Only Rose remains. Her belongings have been sent to Violette's home in the country, but Rose has no intention of moving. Subsisting on the scavenged leavings brought to her by Gilbert, a clochard she once aided, she writes an extended letter to Armand, reflecting on her life, and attempting to parse her own motivations. All tends toward the revelation of a secret she has confessed to no one. De Rosnay's delicacy and the flavor of her beloved Paris are everywhere in this brief but memorable book. Replete with treats, particularly for Paris-lovers--indeed for anyone wedded to a special place.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250012883
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
10/02/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
323,286
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.73(d)

Read an Excerpt

The House I Loved


By Tatiana de Rosnay

St. Martin's Griffin

Copyright © 2012 Tatiana de Rosnay
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781250012883

 
 
MY BELOVED,
I can hear them coming up our street. It is a strange, ominous rumble. Thuds and blows. The floor aquiver under my feet. There are shouts too. Men’s voices, loud and excited. The whinny of horses, the stamp of hooves. It sounds like a battle, like in that hot and dreadful July when our daughter was born, or that bloody time when the barricades went up all over the city. It smells like a battle. Stifling clouds of dust. Acrid smoke. Dirt and rubble. I know the Hôtel Belfort has been destroyed, Gilbert told me. I cannot bear to think about it. I will not. I am relieved Madame Paccard is not here to see it.
I am sitting in the kitchen as I write this to you. It is empty, the furniture was packed up last week and sent to Tours, with Violette. They left the table behind, it was too bulky, as well as the heavy enamel cooker. They were in a hurry and I loathed watching that being done. I hated every minute of it. The house stripped of all its belongings in one short moment. Your house. The one you thought would be safe. Oh, my love. Do not be afraid. I will never leave.
The sun peeks into the kitchen in the mornings, I’ve always appreciated that about this room. So dismal now, without Mariette bustling about, her face reddened by the heat of the stove, and Germaine grumbling, smoothing back wisps of hair into her tight chignon. If I try, I can almost pick up the enticing wafts of Mariette’s ragout weaving its slow path through the house. Our once-cheerful kitchen is sad and bare without the gleaming pots and pans, kept scrupulously clean by Germaine, without the herbs and spices in their little glass bottles, the fresh vegetables from the market, the warm bread on its cutting board.
I remember the morning the letter came, last year. It was a Friday. I was in the sitting room, reading Le Petit Journal by the window, and drinking my tea. I enjoy that quiet hour before the day begins. It wasn’t our usual postman. This one, I had never seen. A tall, bony fellow, his hair flaxen under the flat green cap. His blue cotton blouse with its red collar appeared far too large for him. From where I was sitting, I saw him jauntily touch his cap and hand the mail over to Germaine. Then he was gone, and I could hear his soft whistle as he marched up the street.
It was early still, I’d had my breakfast a while ago. I went back to my newspaper after a sip of tea. It seemed the Exposition Universelle was all they could talk about these past months. Seven thousand foreigners pouring through the boulevards every day. A whirl of prestigious guests: Alexander II from Russia, Bismarck, the Vice King of Egypt. Such a triumph for our Emperor.
I heard Germaine’s step on the stairs. The rustle of her dress. I do not get much mail. Usually a letter from my daughter, from time to time, when she feels dutiful. Or maybe from my son-in-law, for the same reason. Sometimes a card from my brother Émile. Or from the Baronne de Vresse, in Biarritz, by the sea, where she spends her summer. And the occasional bills and taxes.
That morning I noticed a long white envelope. Closed with a thick crimson seal. I turned it around. Préfecture de Paris. Hôtel de Ville.
And my name, printed large, in black lettering. I opened it. The words leaped out. At first I could not understand them. Yet my reading glasses were perched on the end of my nose. My hands were shaking so hard I had to place the sheet of paper on my lap and inhale a deep breath. After a while I took the letter into my hand again and forced myself to read it.
“What is it, Madame Rose?” whimpered Germaine. She must have seen my face.
I slipped the letter back into its envelope. I stood up and smoothed my dress down with the palms of my hands. A pretty frock, dark blue, with just enough ruffle for an old lady like me. You would have approved. I remember that dress, and the shoes I was wearing that day, mere slippers, sweet and feminine, and I remember Germaine’s cry when I told her what the letter said.
It was not until later, much later, alone in our room, that I collapsed on the bed. Although I knew this would happen one day, sooner or later, it still came as a shock. That night, when the household was asleep, I fetched a candle and I found that map of the city you used to like to look at. I rolled it out flat on the dining room table, taking care not to spill any wax. Yes, I could see it, the inexorable northern advance of the rue de Rennes sprouting straight from the Montparnasse railway station to us, and the boulevard Saint-Germain, a hungry monster, creeping westward from the river. With two trembling fingers I traced their paths until my flesh met. Right over our street. Yes, my love, our street.
It is freezing in the kitchen, I need to go down to get another shawl. Gloves as well, but only for my left hand, as my right hand must go on writing this for you. You thought the church and its proximity would save us, my love. You and Père Levasque.
“They will never touch the church, nor the houses around it,” you scoffed fifteen years ago, when the Prefect was appointed. And even after we heard what was going to happen to my brother Émile’s house, when the boulevard de Sébastopol was created, you still were not afraid: “We are close to the church, it will protect us.”
I often go to sit in the church to think of you. You have been gone for ten years now. A century to me. The church is quiet, peaceful. I gaze at the ancient pillars, the cracked paintings. I pray. Père Levasque comes to see me and we talk in the hushed gloom.
“It will take more than a Prefect or an Emperor to harm our neighborhood, Madame Rose! The church is safe, and so are we, its fortunate neighbors,” he whispers emphatically. “Childebert, the Merovingian King, the founder of our church, watches over his creation like a mother would a child.”
Père Levasque is fond of reminding me of how many times the church has been looted, plundered and burnt down to the ground by the Normans in the ninth century. I believe it is thrice. How wrong you were, my love.
The church will be safe. But not our house. The house you loved.


 
Copyright © 2012 by Éditions Héloise d’Ormesson


Continues...

Excerpted from The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay Copyright © 2012 by Tatiana de Rosnay. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

TATIANA DE ROSNAY is the author of ten novels, including The New York Times bestselling novels Sarah's Key and A Secret Kept. Sarah's Key is an international sensation with more than 5 million copies sold in forty countries worldwide and has been made into a major motion picture. Together with Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson, de Rosnay was named one of the top three fiction writers in Europe in 2010. She lives with her husband and two children in Paris.

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The House I Loved 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
Sudananne More than 1 year ago
I read this book based on the gripping story line of Sarah's Key, which I have recommended to many. However, The House I Loved was plodding and never really held my attention. I just didn't get the premise of the book, although the ending was an apt one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed sarahs key but did not enjoy this book. Too plodding and ending even less wirthwhile.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed this Author's other work but found this very slow and hard to get through!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book pretty depressing and I didn't enjoy the voice. It's narrated by the widow of a man who loved the house, the buildings on the street, the city, etc., as she writes letters to him. It was just very odd. It got amazing reviews and I will say I enjoyed learning about the history of Paris, but overall, I wouldn't recommend spending money on it. Get it from the library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story was a little sad but I loved hearing the history of frannce
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great historical detail about the reconstruction of Paris woven into an entertaining story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story has stayed with me long after I finished the last page. We've become such a transient society, that the idea of staying in one house all our adult life is almost unheard of any longer. I loved that the house was filled with the memories and shadows of so much love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An interesting viewpoint on the re-building of Paris. At times the story gets sluggish but is very much worth the read and very touching at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked that this book was written from the perspective of a woman living in Victorian times. I appreciated her reluctance to reveal a traumatic events from her past and her true feelings about her family and friends. She seemed to evolve toward greater understanding of her life. I would definitely recommend this book - there was history, mystery, and drama!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the book was a bit slow, however, loved hearing about more of the history of France and the beginning of their great boulevards. It is a very sad story, however, definitely worthwhile reading. This has become one of my favorite authors
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JellybeanJZ More than 1 year ago
I always enjoy reading Tatiana's books. They are packed with history and mystery. Fast read and enjoyed the story. Hi
bscheldt More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! So well written and easy to follow even though the story goes back and forth from past to present.
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Well written and engaging.
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