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13 rue Thérèse

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American academic Trevor Stratton discovers a box full of artifacts from World War I as he settles into his new office in Paris. The pictures, letters, and objects in the box relate to the life of Louise Brunet, a feisty, charming Frenchwoman who lived through both World Wars.

As Trevor examines and documents the relics the box offers up, he begins to imagine the story of Louise Brunet'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 neighbor in her building at 13 rue Thérèse. The more time he spends with the objects though, the truer his imaginings of Louise's life become, and the more he notices another alluring Frenchwoman: Josianne, his clerk, who planted the box in his office in the first place, and with whom he finds he is falling in love.

278 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Elena Mauli Shapiro

3 books29 followers
I was born in Paris, France, and moved to the United States at the age of 13. I’ve amassed several degrees in literature and writing around the San Francisco Bay Area (Stanford University, Mills College, UC Davis), where I still live with one scientist husband and two elderly half-Siamese cats who spend all day following sunbeams around the house. I am the author of two novels, 13 RUE THERESE and IN THE RED, both from Little, Brown. My short fiction has appeared in Zyzzyva, Five Chapters, The Farallon Review.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 372 reviews
Profile Image for Duane.
828 reviews404 followers
February 16, 2017
I really enjoyed this book. The concept for the plot is unique, the characters are interesting, and the setting, Paris in the early 20th century, is right up my alley. It's a bit odd, the story and the characters both, so it's one of those love or hate books. But as I said, I enjoyed it, it's just not going to be for everyone.
Profile Image for Vonia.
611 reviews97 followers
June 18, 2020
There is a lot going on here. A lot. Is it possible to hate a novel while admiring it? Wavering between such extremes from chapter to chapter? Respecting the author for her ingenuity while often doubting her acuity? Being in awe of her prose one moment but questioning her graduate degrees in writing at another? Apparently it is.

First and foremost, experimental approach the author took may have been fun for her, but the result is a novel that will be either beloved/hated. Close to a cult following maybe for those whom like what she did. I, however, deem it to be complete chaos. Like the editor was on vacation. Not sure even where to begin this review to be honest. There is some metafiction here? What does NB stand for? Time travel? The narrator? Trevor Stratton becomes Louise Brunet at some point. he begins, of course, by merely looking through her things. Things that are surreptitiously placed in his possession by his secretary whom apparently does this every year to a different unsuspecting man of her choice. (She lives @ 13 Rue Therese, by the way, the address of one Louise Brunet.... The Lake House, anyone? Also the real life address of the author.... )

Not a graphic novel, nor a picture book, but the author provides us with interactive QR codes that can actually be used (alternative website), along with images. I did like this. I saw, along with Trevor Stratton, the tangible treasures of a character. A brightly colored box of collectibles, each speaking to me, representing an important part of her life. The indiscreet rendezvous, the secrets not to be said in the light of day, a relationship she might not even admit the importance of to herself, a token of appreciation, the letters she keeps in case of who knows what. By providing a visual cue, I felt closer to the character; I was that much more engaged, it all felt that much more true.

Then, why, oh why, did she have to bar such potential by employing the second-person narrative? In skilled hands, yes. In hers, most definitely not. Every alternating chapter in which this point of view was employed I really wished I did not have to read the book anymore. As I said, this is a point of view advised for burgeoning writers to try out to develop their expertise. Not for final publishing!

Another thing that I really disliked was the insistence of telling rather than showing. Everywhere the author would write "See, Look here." Verbatim. "You can see..." In other chapters where the usual third person point of view was used, she still would tell when showing would have been the better option sometimes. her prose suffered for this.

The timeline, coupled with the time travel, with the erotica, with some random incest, then incest again later on, some lesbianism, with the adultery, with the grief, the death, World War I, World War II. Yes, that is correct. incest with a cousin, then with her father, then her student a decade younger apparently a lesbian in love with her kisses her, then she has this unabatable yearning the fuck her neighbor. If you are perplexed reading this review, you should be. The erotica was definitely unexpected. Quite inexplicable, she begins an affair with her neighbor, a very intense one that begins at a cemetery, followed by a few visits in the bedroom. In contrast to the tone of the rest of the novel, the author is rather graphic in these sex scenes. As she is in the death scenes when Trevor inexplicably (as the reader does not understand this until later) time travels, becoming Louise's cousin/lover Camille, watching a bullet enter his body. In so many of these scenes, the characters themselves, the author does not even have explanations of what is going on. Even worse, they do not care to try to now why. Worst of all, they state this! "[NB: This is not in the documentation.... So how do I know this is so? I do not know!]" Apparently he is delirious a lot throughout the story, needs to state this all the time, needs to always tell the reader that he does not understand why some things are the way they areas well as other obvious things.

I grant this novel great credit for its creativity. Its originality. And the potential. I want to know what beautiful vacation the editor at the publishing house was on.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dree.
1,599 reviews48 followers
June 16, 2011
OK, so you grow up downstairs from an old widow. At her death, the landlord lets other tenants go through her things, as he can't find any relatives. Your mom takes her box of memories--photos, letters, mementos. You grow up and decide to write a novel that is the story of this storyless-since-her-death box of objects. That's what happened to the author. Supposedly anyway.

Interesting, yes? Clever and unusual, yes?

It started out so promising. But then Shapiro turns this old woman (who is young as she is collecting these mementos) into a false-confessing unhappy woman who dwells on her lack of children, begins an affair with the married father downstairs, had hoped to marry her cousin killed in WWI, and has a dwindling career teaching piano. And throw in a modern professor who manages to time travel back to this young woman and her friends and relatives to meet them. Huh?

As a university-trained historian and a self-trained genealogist, this just made me sad. Using original names and documents is cool, but I am sure that woman DID have relatives. Why immortalize her as an unhappy woman whose favorite hobby is telling false sexual confessions to priests? That's just sad and kind of mean. And then to throw in the time travel. Huh? I am still confused as to why the characters of Trevor Stratton and Josianne are even necessary.

This is one weird book.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
399 reviews47 followers
November 6, 2017
This intriguing read was given to me from a friend who had purchased it from a little bookshop at my favourite place in Paris, l’Opera. My friend wrote a small note to say she had to read it twice as she thought she had missed something in it. I almost had the same experience but being warned I tried to make sure that I connected with it all. The author explains the history of her collection of personal mementos that inspired her to write this story. Even though the author now lives in USA her French background shows through so delightfully titillating and passionate. The story has all the elements of love, passion, loss and grief. The small collection of mementos from the deceased person of Louise Brunet who dies alone with no living relatives are disbursed amongst her neighbours. The author has cleverly created a story from the items in a small box that appear to have magical properties and have a strange affect on those who open and inspect it’s contents. The latest a scholar of 19th century French Literature an American from California. One knows that this professor will become engrossed with the contents of the box simply by virtue of his selected studies. The story evolves around Louise, her life experiencing 2 terrible wars, death of her first love on the battlefield, death of her brother from the Influenza that killed thousands, the impact on her father. Later married she remains childless, she seems trapped in a boring life of servitude to her husband and father. However there is another side to Louise with her sexual fantasies being created probably by her mundane life. She does act out her fantasies although I think a little surprised at the initial outcome. Her lewd comments to a Priest seem strange (I laughed, overactive imagination) until later in the book when it is realised, why this action has come about. I loved this little story.
Profile Image for Mitch.
229 reviews212 followers
April 1, 2012
This book is unlike anything I have ever read before. Bizarre and at times confusing, yet always enthralling. Only a French woman could devise a tale so unique and lovely as this! Props to Elena Mauli Shapiro! Now, I must say, this book isn't for everyone. It's quirk factor is FULL HILT and some people may not understand or appreciate that. It sort of reminds me of the style of Woody Allen's movie "Midnight in Paris".

The big plus of this book is that it contains a LOT of pictures. The main character stumbles on a box of antique treasures from WWI and up until the 1950's (even though the main focus is WWI and 1928). Every treasure is displayed and explained here, which makes the reader feel as if they are rifling through the contents themselves. LOVE THAT! I found myself studying the photos and letters for often minutes at a time. So much fun!

I don't want to give anything away, so let me just say it is about an American man who uses this found box of treasures to weave a tale of the woman who owned the box. The treasures aren't in any particular order, so it is interesting how the book flips through different time periods and then comes back full circle.

There were times were this book almost got too weird for me, but then I shrugged and appreciated the fact that it dared to be different. 5 stars!

Profile Image for Anna.
903 reviews35 followers
March 13, 2021
Well this is an unexpected surprise!

"A translator, caught in the space between two tongues. Such people tend to come a little bit unglued from the task of trying to convey meaning from one code to the other. The transfer is never safe. The meaning changes in the channel, becomes tinted, adulterated, absurd, stronger."

"Banality is a cozy and comfortable place."
Elena Mauli Shapiro, 13, rue Thérèse

>>Audiobook: Narrated by Jefferson Mays
Hosted by Mia Barron
app 6.75hrs
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Alaska).
1,286 reviews421 followers
August 14, 2022
At page 50 I thought about setting this aside, and then again another 25-30 pages later. For some reason I kept after it. I should have listened to that inner voice and saved myself from wasting 2 more days.

The construction is quirky and for me that was the least of its problems. There are several timelines where the "present" time is unclear. But then the 1928 timeline is written in the present tense. I don't like that in any book. Yeah, I know I have tolerated it in other books, but it simply didn't work here. Why not the present time as in the present tense and the years ago in the past tense?

The stated premise of the book that a man finds a box of mementos is intriguing. The book even has images of those mementos. The story attached to them isn't bad, except for all the imagined explicit sex and the actual explicit sex. Then there are "footnotes" to the images of the mementos translating the notes or explaining the inserted French conversations and also "NB" explaining made up things like the record doesn't disclose whatever. I did finish it and for that reason only I'll give it 2 stars, mostly reserving my 1 star reviews for those I could finish.
Profile Image for Alison.
450 reviews226 followers
January 21, 2011
A gift.

This special book got me out of a reading funk I had a few months ago. It came to me wrapped in beautiful paper with a note from the editor, Reagan Arthur. I opened it, hoping to discover something new and exciting. What I didn't realize at the time was that I would spend the entire 270 pages unwrapping this precious gift.

Each page brought something new - a photograph, a letter, a piece of fabric from a life of a woman I would never meet, a woman that was not even real, but a woman whom I would know.

This was the journey of Trevor Stratton, and it was my pleasure to take it with him. Stratton is an American professor living in Paris and one day he finds something in his office. Imagine finding a box of photographs and letters belonging to someone you don't know, and slowly learning about this person and falling in love with them.

Louise Brunet seemed like a typical girl in the 1920s...but as we unwrapped pieces of her life, we realized she was anything but typical. In the beginning of her story, she suffers loss and lives a simple life...but then things get saucy.

I don't want to give away too much of this book - I want you to unwrap this gift yourself!

Profile Image for Jane.
820 reviews614 followers
July 24, 2011
A novel spun around an inherited box of mementoes, gathered over the course of a life.

It sounded lovely but I thought it might be just a little predictable. I found though that it was anything but.

"She will give him the office with the tall, useless empty file cabinets in the corner. He will probably not think to open all the drawers and look at them his first day on the premises. But he will, eventually, discover a box tucked all the way into the darkness at the back of the bottom drawer, innocent looking yet unexpected. How could one see such a thing and not take a little peek inside?

She wonders what effect it will have on him."

Josiane is the leaver of the box, and Trevor is the finder. He is an American in Paris. A visiting professor. A scholar of 19th century French literature.

Words and language intrigue Trevor. Double meanings. Ambiguities of translation. All of that is that is reflected in lovely, readable prose, and in very clever storytelling.

And the contents of the box intriguing too. Relics of one woman's life, lived in Paris between the wars.

There are photographs, letters, so many small things that hold memories. They appear in between the words. And they don't just illustrate the story, they are the very heart of the story.

Trevor is intrigued, and the more the looks. the more he thinks, the more his interest grows. He begins to construct the story of Louise Brunet.

The daughter of a jeweller, who was the apple of her widowed father's eye. A girl whose first love was her cousin, a young man who lost his life in the great war. A young woman who married her father's apprentice. A bored wife who fell passionately in love with another woman's husband ...

I knew that I wasn't reading about the real Louise, that the Louise I met was a construct in Trevor's head. But at the same time I liked her, I believed in her, and I wanted to know what her future held.

It felt strange, but I was impressed that I could believe in a woman created by a man created by a woman author!

And I was intrigued by the mixture of Louise's real artefacts, Louise's invented life, and Trevor's rambling letters to his supervisor.

As the story progressed its focus changed. From a family story to a passionate romance. And I began to wonder if maybe it was reflecting Trevor's emotions as his relationship with Josiane evolved.

The present day story was sparsely told, and so for a long time I wasn't sure. But when past and present stories came together in a sudden and unexpected ending I decided that I had been right.

That ending was both clever and intriguing, but I must confess that I was disappointed to leave Louise's story when there was more drama to come.

Maybe though I should look at her mementoes again, and fill in the gaps myself.

13, rue Thérèse is an intriguing little book.

A literary curio maybe.
Profile Image for Adriana.
55 reviews1 follower
June 5, 2011
O.k. I admit it. I am partially biased towards this author since I know her. Nonetheless, I would not give five stars if I did not think this book is a good piece of literature. Shapiro takes the pieces of an actual Parisian woman's life during WWII and gave her life again to help give a perspective on how people lived and behaved during World War II and its aftermath. It is clever and witty to draw anyone in and make them think differently about how people acted during a difficult time. There are too many works of fiction that focus on the drab and violence of the battlefields, but what about the every day life at the home front? How did they see the war and affect their lives even though they are not near the fighting? This is an aspect that is often overlooked or glossed over briefly, because they are not in direct contact with the "enemy." Being a former Parisian herself, Shapiro does have an insight as to the thought process and historical perspective of these people that many of us are unaware. Shapiro even pokes fun at amateur historians and scholars that forget there is more to history than facts and war which I think tends to get her venom from them. If you approach this work with an open mind, I think one will be pleasantly surprised by what they learn.
Profile Image for Kate.
101 reviews15 followers
July 1, 2011
I adored this book! It took me a while to get into this one, but once I did, I was completely drawn to the sketched characters and objects documented within.

I can't begin to describe the plot, because it is best to just let the segments wash over you and not concentrate on "where is this going?" but rather to just enjoy each chapter and moment as it comes. The story as it comes together deliberately leave holes, and after I would set the book down for the evening, I would spend some time filling in the story for myself, imagining what was happening in between the lines.

The book is full of amazing photographs, which my copy included QR codes for in the index to examine them more closely online, a brilliant stroke of interactivity incorporated into the book.

Best of all, I loved learning that the artifacts that made up the skeleton of the story were actually from the estate of a woman named Louise Brunet who evolved into the fictional heroine of the book. The end note is well worth reading.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
July 2, 2012
I'm not sure what I just read, and I'm equally unsure whether I liked it. It is, as the back cover states, a puzzle story, and I'm not sure what I make of it. I found it disorientating, often unpleasant -- I didn't like Louise, and I found myself doubting the existence of all of the characters, wondering who was making up who and what.

The actual concept is fascinating to me, but the execution just left me confused -- and often, not at all sure I wanted to stay in the headspace of the characters.

On the other hand, for what it's worth, I stayed with the book right to the end.
Profile Image for Kathrina.
508 reviews127 followers
February 4, 2011
2.5 stars. I'm not as taken with this book as the handful of other reviewers so far. I was led to believe I'd find a puzzle here, but it's really a collection of scanned objects that give hints to a life in which our author fills in the lost details. Interesting, to a degree, but failed to keep me devoted throughout. How do these damn epistolary novels keep landing in my hands?! This was definitely better than The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, as the writing was not quite as condescending, and there was plenty more sex, which always helps. I guess my biggest problem was not having enough faith in the author at the beginning, and only through sheer willpower did I read enough to finally appreciate her approach. A few nice turns of phrase, some poetic structure that was risky but worked, by and large, but nothing to get on the phone about.
Profile Image for Christena.
31 reviews
October 15, 2011
The narrative was entertaining but I mostly hated the writing style ("Do you want to see what's on the back of the postcard? Go ahead, flip it over!" Blaaaaaaah.) And the pictures. They annoyed me, though I understand their purpose. I love the IDEA of the book--telling a story with found objects--I just didn't like the execution.
Profile Image for Marty.
121 reviews
June 7, 2012
This was a strange and wonderful little novel. It was created around a box of artifacts that the author acquired from the apartment of an elderly woman who died without any relatives to claim her belongings. Out of the postcards, letters and various objects in the box, Shapiro weaves a story of the fictional Louise Brunet, who lost the love of her life in WWI. The box is passed on to Trevor Stratton, an American professor and translator, by his secretary, Josiane. Trevor sets about recreating the lives the people in Louise's life, never certain if his conclusions are accurate deductions or the result of his own fevered imagination. What really happened to Louise's first love, her cousin Camille? Did Louise really conceive a passion for her next door neighbor at 13, rue Therese, a handsome, passionate school teacher? Was that passion reciprocated? Did Louise really come to terms with her childless but quietly loving marriage?

There is an element of the supernatural/sci-fi at the end that was a little jarring. It's suggested that Trevor's passion for uncovering the answers to these questions allowed him to transcend time and space to speak with the mysterious Louise herself. The ending is a bit unsatisfying, but the rest of the novel renders this immaterial. The journey to find this lost world of Louise's is the point.

I particularly liked the way Shapiro includes photographs of the actual box contents throughout the book. They are also listed at the end of the novel with QR codes that can be scanned for further information.
458 reviews
July 21, 2011
OK, OK, LOVED this one!! Sorta spooky/weird at the end, but the story, characters & settings were just so wonderful. This is probably one book I'll break down & buy to have in my library.
Profile Image for Marta.
896 reviews7 followers
January 17, 2020
13, rue Thérèse (2011)

Un libro abbastanza inutile, anche se è carina l'idea delle immagini, che fanno scorrere molto la lettura; però si poteva ricostruire la vita di Louise su dati più o meno verosimili o - se proprio - immaginando, senza scadere nel paranormale (che poi, mai sentito parlare di paradosso spaziotemporale?). Se - e sottolineo se - è vero tutto l'entusiasmo scatenato dal libro prima ancora che fosse pubblicato : molto rumore per nulla.

"Fuori dal tempo. Mentre il resto di noi prosegue" pag. 248
14 reviews1 follower
November 29, 2012
From my blog for my book club:
On November 21, the International Fiction Book Club met for the 31st time to discuss the novel 13 rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro. Ms. Shapiro lived in Paris until she was 13 years of age and then moved to the States with her family. Though written in English, this novel is entirely French, both in setting and character of style. I say character of style because it is through a peculiar style that characters gradually emerge. Or do they only seem to emerge?
French novelists of the 20th century often explored the boundaries of what a novel could be. The Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or Workshop of Potential Literature) was formed in 1960 by the acclaimed novelist, Raymond Queneau, and nine other writers, mathematicians, professors and so-called pataphysicians (after Alfred Jarry). Their raison d’être was to analyze traditional literary forms and constraints in an effort to create new language structures based on a relationship between mathematics and literature. Sound bizarre? Well, some of their preoccupations are best left to a select group of intellectuals. However, the games these thinkers play have led to a number of literary masterpieces by Queneau himself, Georges Perec and Italo Calvino among others. The first comment made by one book club member was that this book reminded him of Perec’s novel, Life: A Users Manual. Having also read that book, I knew what he meant. Though, strictly speaking, the mathematics of this novel might not be defined in Oulipian concepts, the spirit of constraint and making a novel out of a box of memorabilia is surely in the Oulipian spirit.
As a young girl Mauli Shapiro lived in an apartment house in Paris. An old woman with no interested relatives died alone in the same building. The landlord allowed tenants to take her belongings and the author’s mother took a box of mementos that included love letters, photographs, church gloves, a rosary and other evocative objects dating from the 1st World War through the mid-50s. This box of memories gave Mauli Shapiro incentive to create a story to go along with the objects and also a way to re-discover her lost childhood. As we discussed, what first appeared as a gimmick, the inclusion of scans of the objects at various times in the book, becomes a fascinating addition to the conceit within a conceit that the author so deftly weaves. When confronting the first couple of scans of a letter, handwritten in French, and a photo of a man you are immediately involved but a tad suspicious. As we later find out we have reason to be suspicious though that does not become fully evident till the end.
A secretary at a university, Josianne, plays a little game of seduction with newly hired professors that she finds attractive. Upon their arrival, she is the one who assigns their office. As bait, she places the box of mementos in a filing cabinet where the professor is sure to find it. She has had several conquests before the American, Trevor Stratton, takes center stage in her trap. When he shows her a picture of men in uniform posing for a WW 1 photo she points out how effeminate the British soldiers look. When he questions her about how she knows they are British, she explains that the dark uniforms are British and the grey uniforms are French. How did Josianne know this? Was it explained to her by a previous suitor who fell into her trap? Trevor never lets the reader know for sure how much he has figured out as he writes letters addressed to “Dear Sir” explaining his project of trying to determine the fate of the original owner of the box, Louise Brunet.
Over the course of the book we gradually enter into the life of Louise Brunet. At various times, the author plays tricks with narration as Trevor enters into Louise’s life and also has an affair with Josianne. But, is this story real? Is Trevor the seduced or the seducer? These questions and many more will be answered only if you read the book. All present declared the book an easy read and I pronounced it a small masterpiece in the Oulipian tradition. From her website, the author explains “people often get caught up in plot, in the broad scope of what happens, but its how it happens on the micro level that actually makes the story. Fiction is really all in the delivery too.”
Profile Image for Frank.
239 reviews11 followers
March 15, 2011
Josianne, the departmental secretary of an unnamed university in Paris, is in charge of allocating office space to new professors. She gives Trevor Stratton, a visiting American, "the office with the tall useless empty file cabinet in the corner." But in that useless filing cabinet, she also leaves a small box of mundane artefacts for him to discover at his leisure; a box which proves to tell a remarkable story.

Stratton becomes obsessed with the artefacts, and what he is able to learn about their original owner, a woman named Louise Brunet (née Victor): born at the end of the nineteenth century, she found and lost love during the First World War, married a stable but rather stodgy after the peace, and lived the rest of her life in a flat at 13, Rue Thérèse in the 1er arrondisement. As Stratton pieces together Louise's story, we the readers are also allowed to see the love letters, photographs and other trinkets that held some special significance to the original owner. There are images throughout the book (and hyperlinks to the book's website for larger versions of the images).

And so there are two plots, simultaneous and related: the current day plot of Trevor finding the artefacts and the story of Louise and her husband and her lovers. Louis's story is not chronological: the plot weaves back and forth through her life, from when she's a young woman, to the autumn of 1928, to her girl-hood, to the death of her brother in the Spanish 'Flu pandemic of 1918; dictated, it would seem, by the order in which Trevor investigates her effects.

Trevor and Josianne also become lovers. Josianne lives in a flat in the same building that Louise occupied, at 13, Rue Thérèse. But, in a twist of magical realism, Trevor also meets Louise at various points in her life, like a time traveller, transported back to November 1928, back to December 1918, back to the killing fields of Flanders during the Great War.

In an afterward, the author relates some of her own story. She lived in a flat at 13, Rue Thérèse. She was only a girl when the real Louise Brunet died, a widow without any relatives. The owner of the building, needing to clean out the flat, opened the doors to the other tenants, inviting them to take what they wished. The author carried the little box of artefacts with her ever since, always speculating on the possible stories behind the letters and gloves and buttons and coins: this book is the result.

I enjoyed it. It was a slight and slender book, and the "magic" was a little silly. But it had a charm, and though I haven't been to the website to look at the artefacts for myself yet, I will.
Profile Image for Virginia .
695 reviews8 followers
September 29, 2011
This was indeed the strangest book I think I have ever read, but I do believe it would make an excellent book club selection as there would be a great deal to talk about from the strange premise of the book to the odd way in which it was written.

The backstory for this novel is important. A neighbor of the author who lived in Paris where the book is set died without any family. Everyone in the building basically looted her apartment. The author's mother took a box which contained nothing of value - letters, photographs and other meaningless memorabilia. The author kept the box, meaning to write a book about it one. 13, Rus Therese is that book. It is entirely a work of fiction as there is no history to the woman who left behind the box. So, the author concocts one for her based upon the items in the box. She creates a life for her - a life that includes a lover from World War I, a father, a brother, a husband, a lover, a piano student and a jeweler.


It is not the story itself that is strange, but the way it is concocted. The author puts herself in the story as a fictional character who passes this strange box on to other people. One of these people is the person who "writes" the book in a series of letters that, we learn at the end, he has sent to himself in the hope that the person who gave him the box - his secretary - reads them. He scans the items in the box and includes them in his letters. He then relives the woman's life - going so far as to encounter her by travelling in time. The end was definitely satisfying, but, as I said, this was one strange book.
Profile Image for Leah.
552 reviews9 followers
August 14, 2014
I knew before I read 13 Rue Thérèse that it was going to be good. I have yet to be disappointed by anything from the same imprint. I wasn't sure exactly how the story would go, though, and I found it utterly fascinating.

Trevor Stratton's discovery, the box of artifacts, the gift given by Josianne, is no ordinary collection of keepsakes. As Trevor goes through the objects, reads the letters, and learns more about the life of the long-dead Louise Brunet, it becomes difficult to tell whether he possesses the objects or the objects possess him. Elena Mauli Shapiro's writing pulls you in and begins blending the past and the present, the real and the imagined. It becomes almost hypnotic and gets to a point where the reader can't tell what's real any more than Trevor can!

Louise's life comes vividly alive, whether she's making false confession away from her neighborhood church or having dinner with her father and husband. Trevor is feverish with this knowledge, as if he's there with her, seeing her actions, speaking her words, feeling her emotions. And when Louise is feverish? What then?

13 Rue Thérèse is a mystery of intricacy and imagination. And the fact that it's based on a real box of memories only makes it all the more intriguing. It's the kind of book you want to read again, if only to look out for clues and to see how your understanding of it changes.
Profile Image for Janine Corman.
155 reviews17 followers
July 12, 2016
This book was lovely and enchanting and mysterious and erotic and truly unique. Jeffrey picked it out for me because he thought it looked like my kind of book. He was right. It's interesting that I read this book back to back with "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" because both are inspired by actual found objects. And although Ms. Mauli Shapiro's story is grounded in realism, her story is so much more colorful and so much more unique than "Miss Peregrine's" which is a fantasy novel. There are fantastical elements in this book which are the equivalent to the cherry on top of a decadent sundae. And yes, there were some highly erotic elements to this novel as well, but rooted by emotion and intellect. I think Anais Nin would approve. I also think Margaret Atwood would approve. Neither matters. I approve.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,492 reviews9 followers
April 27, 2011
My husband picked this book out for me because of the title and the cover, and wow! I found it to be a delight and quite unique. The author has had a box of mementoes for some time, salvaged from a neighboring apartment years ago, and now she has woven a story about the items in that box from her own imaginings. In doing so, she creates a quick little read about love and war, but don't let that make you think it is not thought provoking or entertaining. Also, the color scans and flourishes on the book's pages are a pleasant surprise. I would love to see a major motion picture come out of this.
Profile Image for Ellen.
256 reviews33 followers
December 15, 2015
This is tough book to review, because it is structured in a way that I think some readers wouldn't like at all. It is a fascinating book, though, because it's not until the end that the readers actually gets an understanding of what's been going on. I'm not going to spoil the book by putting in a lot of details, but I must say that the story verges on being a bit too descriptive about the characters' sexual feelings and thoughts; the author is very descriptive about these, indeed.

The book really caught my interest, and I was unable to put it down until I'd finished it. It's a first novel by Shapiro, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her work.
Profile Image for Vickie.
1,337 reviews4 followers
April 9, 2015
I really loved the concept of this book: a novel is based on a box of actual artifacts the author obtained from her childhood neighbor. There are pictures of the items in the book so these were great visuals. Unfortunately, the story wasn't as charming as the items. The character development was quite lacking and I felt nothing toward any of the characters. The plot was shallow as well. All in all, I am glad that I finished it but it will be remembered more of a book I quite disliked!
Profile Image for Irishmaddoc.
116 reviews2 followers
January 9, 2013
Loved it, loved it, loved it! A really good idea blending real people and artefacts with a fictional story. It's the kind of thing I've done in a coffee shop, what's the story with the guy tapping the table or the couple not talking to each other? Got a bit steamy in places but there's nothing wrong with that!!
138 reviews
December 6, 2021
I am feeling generous today, so will give this book a one star rating. This is one strange book.
I enjoy stories that are based on secrets, letters, diaries, manuscripts, so, I was really looking forward to enjoying this book. The reviewers on the Goodreads site seemed to really enjoy the book, or not, there did not seem to be any oblivious feelings towards the book.
The concept of this story sounded clever, interesting and intriguing.
Pictures are shown throughout the book. The pictures of items, letters and postcards are honest to goodness artifacts that are found in the apartment of a lady who has passed away in an apartment at this address in Paris. The lady was a childhood neighbour of the author. The author received the memory box and wove a story around the box of artifacts.
What a gift to an author! I cannot help but image what Pam Jenoff, Anthony Doeer, Natasha Lester, Kristen Harmel, Julia Kelly, Kristen Hannah, Kelly Rimmer, or Heather Morris would have done with this simple tin box. It was hard to not imagine how interesting the interpretations from other authors who were given this memory box would be.
The story was just too bizarre for my liking; the story and characters, especially Louise, were very shallow, unlikeable, and not believable in my opinion. As a result, I found it hard to engage with the story and the characters. I did not realize the book was a time travel genre, and, it took a while before I realized there was a time travel element.
I forced myself to finish the book because I was curious to see how the academic researcher dealt with the goodies in the tin box. The story of the researcher’s curiosity in pursuing the background of the items was interesting; imagaine how interesting it would be to research the pictures and written correspondence could have, and, should have made for a fantastic read. The pictures and letters made me curious enough to finish this novel; I would probably have given up if not for the letters and pictures.
The best part about this book, other than it finally ending, were the pictures. I got to the point of thinking of how happy I was that they took up space. This was an exercise in boredom.

Profile Image for Shay Caroline.
Author 5 books24 followers
June 17, 2020
Glorious! This will remain a favorite novel of mine for as long as there are books. It is, in part, the story of a woman named Louise Brunet and events that take place in her life in 1928. Having lost her much-beloved fiance in the Great War when he was just 20 and she 19, Louise has drifted into a steady but passionless marriage to a man who works in her father's office.

Louise loves to get away with small transgressions like making up wild, sexual "confessions" for the parish priest, or indulging her lust for the handsome teacher and former fighter pilot recently moved into the same building as Louise and her husband. She longs for a child, but hasn't conceived. She misses her soldier fiance, who has died. She feels stifled in her marriage and so she looks for little rebellions to help her feel alive and less like a caged animal.

We find all this out in a rather remarkable way. An academic named Trevor Stratton has discovered a collection of photographs and mementos from Louise's life and has begun to study them. The photos and objects themselves are pictured in the book and are part of its interesting construction. We get to actually lay eyes on her lost fiance, her mesh gloves for church, and any number of other items. The items themselves appear quite pedestrian or only mildly interesting until Trevor begins explaining what they are and what they mean.

In the final third of the book, the story heads down some very unexpected rabbit holes, reminiscent (to me) of John Kenney Crane's excellent Boer War novel "The Legacy Of Ladysmith" except, unlike "Ladysmith" there are no monsters to be revealed. That is not to say that the the ending isn't amazing--it is! I'll say here that this is one of those books that isn't for everyone. If you like your fiction very straightforward, this one might lose you a bit. There are sexual situations that might make your Aunt Millicent tut tut. But I give it an enthusiastic 5 stars and highly recommend it.
595 reviews2 followers
December 23, 2020
I only finished this book because it was so short.

The story itself seems straightforward: a visiting professor at a Paris university find a box of mementos in his office from a woman's life between the world wars. He attempts to understand her by delving into the letters and trinkets contained in the box, weaving together a story of her life, while simultaneously falling for his secretary, the woman responsible for placing the box in his office.

So why did I dislike this book so much?

The biggest reason is that it was confusing. Without giving too much away, I would describe 13, rue Thérèse (author: Elena Mauli Shapiro) as The Time Traveler's Wife meets The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society meets The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt. A little time travel, a little correspondence, and high-quality photos of letters, postcards, and photographs. Your standard novel, right? It just didn't mesh for me and, worse, it felt gimmicky. None of the characters - from either the present or the past - seemed well-developed to me (which meant I cared not a whit what happened to any of them) and 1920s Paris made hardly even a cameo appearance. A number of relationships, such as the one between Louise and her piano student, Garance, could have been developed in a way that would at least engage the reader. Instead, we know (barely) that these people existed, then in one way or another that they disappeared.
15 reviews
August 4, 2022
Sir/Madam/Thin Air
You stumble across this "novel" in a used book store. The cover and title intrigue you. You think you might enjoy this book from the blurb jacket and inside front cover flap summary, do you not?
You buy the book. It sits on your bedside table for some while with the cover and title beguiling you to pick it up.
Finally, it is time to open this book and begin to read, no?
Looking back from the present to the past when you chose (or did it choose you?) to remove this book from the shelf of the used book store, you will realize that was your first error in judgment.
But it is done and cannot be undone.
The first error is compounded by the second which was to purchase this book which intrigued you so and the third is that you opened the book and began to read.
The fourth is, in spite of your dislike and distaste of the overly clever and pretentious writing style, you suffer through the agony of continuing to read this book to the bitter end.
You did hope at some point it would redeem itself. Did you not?
You wish the past had looked into the future which would tell you "Do not make any of these errors in judgement, lest you endure regret." Is it not so?
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