Friday, June 29, 2012

The House I Loved

I like a book that presents a challenge to the reader, a challenge to understand the protagonist, the scheme and the story. This book is a super easy read. You can still read it and know what the story is about even if you are multi-tasking.

"[wikipedia] Haussmann's renovation of Paris commissioned by Napoleon III and led by Saine prefect Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann between 1853 - 1870 comprised of modernizing all aspects of life in the city and the surroundings, sewers, water works, public parks, building facades, and etc. Haussmann's vision of Paris was widely criticized during his time. He restructured Paris from a city of irregular, narrow, and medieval alleys to wide avenues and more open spaces. His restructuring of Paris gave the city its present form; its long, straight, wide boulevards with their caf├ęs and shops determined a new type of urban scenario and have had a profound influence on the everyday lives of Parisians. In order to give Paris its present shape many houses, shops, and even churches had to be destroyed to make way for the boulevards and open spaces. [wikipedia]"

Rose Bazalet's receives a letter from Prefect's office informing her of imminent destruction of her house to make way for the St-Germain Boulevard. Her very short, 4/5 pages==one chapter, quest to save her house falls flat and she resorts to writing her memories to her beloved husband who has died years ago. Unfortunately, except for maybe one, there are NOT many events in her life that would keep the reader anxious to read on. There are interesting characters: Rose's exotic mother, the ragpicker: Gilbert, and the flower girl Alexandrin but they all stay in safe and confined chapters of the book and never get to play a role in shaping the story.
There are very abrupt, unstructured and not well researched references to Paris during that historic time but just not enough to make it memorable in the readers mind.

I saw this book in the top ten National Bestsellers list and given that I absolutely LOVED de Rosnay's past book, Sarah's Key, I dashed to read it. It is far from what I expected.
By the way today the St-Germain-de-Pres is one of the most beautiful parts, as seen by Parisians and visitors alike, of the city. So, I can't even identify with the protagonist's motive to save her house.

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