Article published on October 3, 2011.
An American in Paris falls in love with two women, one of whom he can only only imagine, in this wonderful debut.
As he settles into his new office in Paris, American academic Trevor Stratton discovers a box full of century-old artifacts. The pictures, letters and objects in the box relate to the life of Louise Brunet, a Frenchwoman who lived through both World Wars.
Trevor begins to piece together the story of Louise’s life: her love for a cousin who died in the war, her marriage to a man who works for her father, and her attraction to a neighbour in her building at 13 rue Therese. As he becomes enamored with the charming, feisty Louise of his imagination, he notices another alluring Frenchwoman, his clerk Josianne, who planted the mysterious box in his office, and with whom he decides he is falling in love.
Charles Baudelaire: the French poet, whose poem “A Hemisphere in a Mane of Hair” (“Un hémisphère dans une chevelure”) is quoted on page 94. The poem is quite intoxicating, and begins with “Let me breathe in for a long, long time the scent of your hair, let me plunge my entire face into it, like a thirsty man into the water of a spring, and let me wave it in my hand like a scented handkerchief, to shake memories into the air.”
A.S. Byatt’s Possession. The book was a bestseller upon its publication in 1990, and is, like 13, rue Thérèse, a delicious blend of contemporary fiction and a historical narrative, incorporating different texts (diaries, letters, and poetry.) Listen to A.S. Byatt talk about Possession here.
Xavier teaches Flaubert’s Salammbo to his students. Read it here.
The sounds of 13, rue Thérèse
Louise and Garance go to Bizet’s Carmen at the Opéra Garnier. Read more about the opera here, listen to a recording by Jane Rhode who famously sang the role of Carmen at Paris’ Opera Garnier here
Edith Piaf, chanteuse of WWII France, sings “Non je ne regrette rien”
Maurice Chevalier, a very popular French entertainer, sings “Paris, Je t’aime”
The tastes of 13, rue Thérèse
Louise serves boeuf bourguignon with potatoes for Henri (and a heavy chocolate custard served for dessert) on page 100. Take a page from Julia Child and make the same.
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