I loved this book. I don’t often come out with blanket statements, but Tatiana De Rosnay’s The House I Loved is a beautiful novel that grabbed my senses and didn’t let go. The House I Loved is a love story about place and memory. I’m not sure if it was the poetic letters, or the captivating storytelling, or the teasing mystery, or the likeable Rose Bazelet, or the connection of the beautiful Parisian boulevards created from destruction, but I was gripped from the beginning of this novel through the end.
The House I Loved by Tatiana De Rosnay is set in Paris during the mid-nineteenth century at the time of the great renovation. This is the era in which the streets of “old Paris” were demolished, by order of Emperor Napoleon III, to make room for the grand boulevards that have come to symbolize the “modern Paris”. Amongst the destruction and displacement, Rose Bazelet vows to remain in her family home no matter the approaching demolition. As her neighborhood empties, Rose offsets her isolation through letters written to her late husband. Rose recalls her life at the Bazelet house on the doomed Rue Childebert. During her narrative, Rose slowly reveals the one secret she maintained for thirty years; this is a secret she couldn’t even speak in the confessional at her local church, Saint Germain-des-Prés. Rose’s story illuminates her love for her home because it is a reflection of her continued love for her late husband.
In The House I Loved, there is a sense of place and it is living. Tatiana De Rosnay’s writing is fresh and vibrant. She shows a Paris that once was, and creates a feeling of change and awakening through the devastation. Last spring I read Walks Through Lost Paris by Leonard Pitt prior to a trip to France; in his book, Pitt compares the Paris of today against the pre-designed Paris of the mid-nineteenth century. Pitt details the differences in archival photographs allowing the traveler to picture what once was. Tatiana De Rosnay’s novel breathes life into this same history.
Through the destruction of the old to make way for the mighty boulevards that the world has grown to know, De Rosnay shows the heart beneath the history. The reader garners a vicarious loss through the characters directly affected by the renovation. The House I Loved is a beautifully written testament to the endurance of love.
Also by Tatiana De Rosnay: Sarah’s Key
Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.