Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Published on: February 14, 2012
Page Count: 240
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Reading Format: eBook purchased to read for book club
Available Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook
Summary from the Publisher
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.
I have wanted to read Tatiana de Rosnay for quite some time. There has been such good buzz about Sarah’s Key. I just haven’t had the opportunity to pick it up and read it. When my book club selected The House I Loved, I was thrilled. The premise of the book, dealing with the destruction of Paris neighborhoods to make way for modern transportation is fascinating. Unfortunately, my excitement did not last long after I started the book.
I did not care for Rose. Although to believe her stories and to accept the ending, one must believe her to be someone others cared for very much. I could not justify other people’s love and concern for her, so the story seemed week. Likewise, her motivations did not seem particularly pressing or even interesting. In fact, given one unsurprising plot twist, I would expect her to be thankful to leave the house behind and be permanently rid of the ugly reminder. There were other twists, but they were equally transparent. Because I got off on the wrong foot with the novel, other irritations that would have either been overlooked or left unnoticed loomed large. For example, Rose is writing to her dead husband. In a similar situation, I wouldn’t expect to have to provide minute details like street names to him. He would know. He had been there. As the novel went on, these things grated on my nerves more and more. In a letter Rose wrote to her brother, she felt the need to point out that a) they grew up together and b) name that place:
Whilst I grew up, with you, in place Gozlin, I already cherished the fact that one day I was going to leave. (pg. 68)
I can only hope her brother’s response was, “Really?”
I cannot recommend The House I Loved. This book brought to light perhaps the biggest drawbacks of eBooks – you can’t throw them against the wall in a fit of rage. Not without the threat of having to pony up for a new eReader anyway. After reading this I’m no longer interested in reading any of de Rosnay’s other novels. I’ve got to believe that Sarah’s Key is a better novel, but there are so many books begging me to read them and sometimes an author only gets one shot with me.