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13 rue Thérèse

3.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,501 ratings  ·  365 reviews
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 L
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published February 2nd 2011 by Reagan Arthur Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.03  · 
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 ·  1,501 ratings  ·  365 reviews

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Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
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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
Jeanette Lewis
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 F ...more
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 char
Jan 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, innoc
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: justread
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 a ...more
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
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.
Jan 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-fiction
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 con ...more
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ctmh-challenge
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 th ...more
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-read
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. ...more
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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?
Mar 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Frank by: New York Times Book Review
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 the
Sep 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 pos
Janine Corman
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. ...more
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 th ...more
May 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: novel lovers; mystery lovers; women
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
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! ...more
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!! ...more
Shay Caroline
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 indulg
Dec 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This novel is brilliant, imaginative, and addictive!

So many times I have stumbled upon an old photograph, unknown smiling faces arousing suppositions, my eyes studying the image for details, clues... or I have stopped mid sentence, eyes drawn and anchored by a mark of pencil or pen, reading and rereading, examining a word underlined or a note in the margin of an old book, wondering who wrote it and why. So often they are merely evidences of moments before my own, simply moments in which I embra
Elysia Fionn
Oct 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This is one of those weird reads where I started out thinking "Whoa, this is a five star book, for sure" at the beginning, and then somewhere in the middle I was hovering around "Mmmm... heading for two stars, I'm afraid"... and then by the end, I settled on three stars, because I mostly liked it more than I didn't like it.

Holy cats, that's a mish-mash reveiw - but when you have a book that jumps around as much as this one does, what else can you expect? I adored the premise. I adored the photos
Frances Wong
Sep 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book was the worst. I would rate it 0 stars if I could.
The plot is terrible, the characters were terrible people, and the style was terrible.
The author had a stranger's box of mementos, and this is the best story she could come up with?!
But more so- it included antiquated prejudices against gay people, women and Asians.
A writer could claim that these views were authentic to the era she's writing about, but if left unchecked, without modern commentary on how inaccurate these views were, then
Dec 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
Perhaps I should've been forewarned when I saw the author's writing degrees. Maybe I should've put the book down when I had to re-read the first page three times to work out what was going on. But no, it took me till the end of the third chapter to realise my mistake. This novel is not for the likes of me. The author didn't set out to write fiction - she set out to write Literature.

I don't do Literature, generally. Although I do appreciate good use of language, I don't want to spend the whole b
Laura Santoski
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it
The concept is interesting - as I learned at the end of the book, an elderly neighbor in the author's childhood apartment building died without relatives, and since there was no one to claim the estate, neighbors were allowed to take some of the woman's possessions. The author's mother ended up with some of the elderly neighbor's personal keepsakes - photos, trinkets from the war, etc. - and the author used those items to imagine what the woman's life might have been like. The structure is also ...more
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Play Book Tag: 13, rue Therese - Elena Mauli Shapiro - 3 stars 1 8 Jun 08, 2016 01:05PM  

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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 ...more

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