Review: 13 , rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro

I almost always start my book reviews as soon as I’ve finished reading, while the story and characters are fresh in my mind. I’m having a bit of trouble with
13, rue Thérèse though because I’m unsure if I’ve caught everything there was to catch. I think I need to re-read from the perspective of having finished the book and discovered what the puzzle was. Because it was a puzzle. Part of a small blurb on the front cover says:

‘A puzzle novel that gave me the same fizzy satisfaction as completing a Sunday crossword.” – David Ebershoff

I agree with that sentiment except for the completing a Sunday crossword part. I’ve never been good at the Sunday puzzles!

This was a unique novel in many ways. The story, with its different perspectives; the narrator was one, the American professor another and a third person viewpoint that doesn’t seem to be from either of the former ones. The concept of a box full of mementos from the First World War and the history behind them is explored and beautifully imagined. I liked that the mementos formed so much a part of the story that they were illustrated throughout. It made the reading experience that much more different and interesting. The photographs were also a nice added touch. Who were those people, really?

When I came to the end of the book I was stymied by what I knew I was reading and what I thought the ending was supposed to be. And this is where I was surprised so that I feel I need to read this novel again from the perspective of what I know now and pick up on the tiny clues dropped here and there about what is really going on. I’ve already gone back to re-read some passages (if you’ve already read this book, you’ll probably know which ones I’m talking about).

The writing is consistent with the rest of the book’s structure. Here and there the sentences are off-set and have a poetic flair – another high point for me. At some points the writing is quite sensuous; Elena Mauli Shapiro definitely has a flair for descriptive narrative.

I would recommend this book to readers who like something a bit different from your everyday novel. It’ll keep you wondering and puzzling until the last page.

This is a Reagan Arthur Book and therefore meets my Reagan Arthur Book challenge requirement. This is my kind of challenge since there's no pressure and the books are ones I enjoy.


bermudaonion on February 3, 2011 at 7:21 AM said...

I like a book that makes me think, so I'm anxious to read this one. I'll add your review to the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge blog.

Staci on February 3, 2011 at 10:35 AM said...

I would try this one for sure...sounds really interesting. I'm a bit scared though as I totally bomb at crossword puzzles!!

Leslie @ Under My Apple Tree on February 3, 2011 at 10:52 AM said...

Exactly how I felt. The puzzle came together in the end but now I want go back and read the book again. I'm sure I missed clues along the way.

Nikki-ann on February 5, 2011 at 8:57 AM said...

This certainly sounds different :)

I also like to start my book reviews as soon as I've finished reading. In fact, I rarely start another book until I've written the book review for the previous book.

Tina on February 9, 2011 at 8:54 PM said...

Thanks for a great review without giving too much away. i have this on my pile to get to soon, and now have some idea how to approach it.


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