The House I Loved by Tatiana De Rosnan
The House I Loved takes place in 1860's Paris where Napoleon III is tearing down neighborhoods to make room for the wide boulevards and a more modern Paris.
The House I Loved
By now my readers know that I am a huge fan of Tatiana De Rosnay. I reviewed her two previous novels - Secrets Kept and Sarah's Key - and I loved both of them.
With this book Ms. De Rosnay has gone to new heights in writing excellence.
The main character of this book, Madame Bazelet, is a widow living above two stores that provide her with her only income. Her husband died ten years previous. She and her neighbors receive a letter saying that they must move - the government will give them a little something for their homes - but not much. All of the neighbors are upset - the owners of the cafe, flower shop, wine shop, chocolate shop, food shop - thought that they would be spared since they lived near a church. Alas, this was not to be.
The wide boulevards and a more modern Paris are more important that cozy neighborhoods.
Madame Bazelet writes to her deceased husband and keeps him apprised of what is going on. Their only daughter, Violet, has invited her to move in with her but she is resisting. Violet is the daughter she never bonded with - she was a difficult baby, a difficult child, and a difficult adult daughter. She was always scowling and yelling. You will see this when you read this book. Another child - a son - died very young. It was he that Madame Bazelet bonded with - he was everything Violet was not - endearing, pleasant, happy. Unfortunately he died from cholera.
Madame Bazelet is determined not to leave her house where her husband, his father, and his father's father was born and lived. Indeed Madame Bazelet gave birth to her two children in the same bed their father was born in.
The construction crew gets closer and closer and the neighbors move away. Still Madame Bazelet won't move. It's cold, it's winter, she has no fuel to keep warm. Still she keeps writing letters to her husband. Her daughter writes and asks her to come but she resists leaving the house that she loves and her husband loved.
Madame Bazelet says "This house is like my body, it is like my own skin, my blood, my bones. It carries me like I have carried our children."
I have never felt that way about a house - and I've lived in many over the years. But, I can understand her feelings - the history of the house is entertwined with her husband's family whom she loved. Her husband's mother was kind and generous and Madame Bazelet felt a sincere sense of loss when the died suddenly of a heart attack.
How does this end? Ahhh, I can't tell you but you will appreciate every chapter of this book.