13, Rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro
What mischief this novel is. Elena Mauli Shapiro has created two wonderful love stories full of twists and turns in the one sophisticated novel. I do not want to give away too much about the plot because it would take the pleasure away from the first read. It is enough to say that an American, Trevor Stratton, falls in love with two French women.
With Stratton mostly narrating, 13, Rue Thérèse tells the story of feisty and seductive Louise Brunet. Louise is a Frenchwoman who lived through both World Wars, restrained by the niceties of life but with a vivid imagination. All that remains of her own life is a box of artefacts consisting of music, photos, illustrations and gloves: artefacts that allow Stratton to recreate her life. These memories and snippets are beautifully illustrated throughout the novel and create a wonderful sense of narrative.
Shapiro depicts her female characters as wistful, without hiding the reality of women’s lives. Whereas (bless!) the males in this novel are seemingly bamboozled by the women’s play. Perhaps it is true that more weight could be given to the predicaments of both sexes, but in the end this novel is not supposed to be a depiction of the differences between males and females. This is, after all, make believe. The lovely 13, Rue Thérèse is rather more like a waltz, an interlude of ‘amour’ with a flurry of movement. Gather yourself and enjoy. Romance is back.