13, rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro. Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown, 2010. (Published February 2)
[Source: Publisher @ ALA Midwinter Meeting]
13, rue Therese is a unique novel. It revolves around a collection of objects once owned by Louise Brunet, which the author actually has in her possession. In the novel, Josianne, a French university secretary, leaves the collection hidden in the office of a new American faculty member. Trevor Stratton, the American, finds the collection and is soon consumed by the objects and the story they tell.
The style of novel takes a bit of getting used to. The author generally uses the present tense regardless of whether the story is happening in the past or the present. This combined with interesting placement of the words on the page and the melding of past and present can be a bit odd and jarring. The story, however, draws the reader in.
I think of 13, rue Therese as a next generation novel. The finished work (I was reading from an ARC.) includes QR codes that lead you to the website for further exploration of the objects and the story surrounding them. I would guess that the novel would be more intriguing with this added element.
As it was, I found it an interesting study of 21st century story-telling. I was initially attracted to this book by the blurb on the front of the ARC from David Ebershoff, who wrote the wonderful The 19th Wife. Unfortunately, it wasn’t even close to my favorite read of the year. I can just imagine the real Louise Brunet spinning in her grave based on the character and life Shapiro created for her. If you are intrigued by the incorporation of technology into the reading experience, you should definitely check out 13, rue Therese. Otherwise, I think you can leave this off your TBR list.
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13, rue Therese