Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is one of my all time favorite books. I was thrilled to find the audio version of Ms. De Rosnay’s other book The House I
Loved, on the library shelf. I needn’t have been so excited.
This story takes place in Paris in the mid-19th century. For anyone who has been to Paris, you know that there are hundreds of little streets but also “les grands boulevards:” Blvd. Ste. Germaine, Blvd. Haussman, Blvd St. Michel, Avenue de l’Opera, to name a few. Commissioned by Napolean III, Baron Haussman redesigned the city and these grands boulevards were very controversial. Obviously, the city plan is not controversial today and I never gave much thought as to what existed prior to this master plan. I was hopeful Ms. De Rosnay’s novel would provide some insight.
Rose Bazelet is one woman who is greatly affected by the redesign of the city. Her house sits onthe small rue de Childebert and will soon be destroyed to make way for Blvd. Ste. Germaine. Rose narrates the story by describing her daily activities and her love of the house to her long dead husband. All of Rose’s neighbors had sold their properties and moved on, literally. The book cover promises a woman who will stand up and fight for what she believes in. As far as I can tell she left her house once to visit the city officials, lost her uneventful fight, returned home and never left again.
Rose reminisces about her life, their marriage and their children to her dead husband and tries to convince someone (the reader?) how much the house means to her. I wasn’t convinced and I didn’t care about the house. As much as Sarah’s Key led me on an emotional roller coaster, The House I Loved left me yawning. I only continued listening because it takes place in my favorite city, and there was supposed to be a “dark secret revealed.” I already figured out the secret before it was revealed and it wasn’t original or spectacular. Bummer.
I was determined, however, to obtain something positive from this story. Since I didn’t know much about the layout of pre-Haussman Paris, I did a little research on the street name where Rose lived and found it to be a real street from long ago. Rue Childebert is listed on a French website that talks about the old streets of Paris. So although The House I Loved wasn’t anywhere near a favorite, I’m glad it gave me incentive to reserach a little more Parisian history.