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Trevor Stratton is an American professor and translator, newly arrived at a Paris university. There, in his office, he discovers a box filled with letters, photographs, and antique objects—a beautiful pair of gloves, a rosary, a silk scarf. Whose life is preserved here? And who has left this mystery for him to find?
The artifacts tell the story of the box’s owner, Louise Brunet, who lived in Paris through both world wars. Trevor is captivated by her tale; her unruly love for a cousin who died in WWI, her comfortable marriage to a man who works for her father, and her passionate attraction to a neighbor in her building at 13, rue Thérèse. But the artifacts tell just a part of the story. Trevor almost deliriously envisions the rest, consumed by thoughts of Louise. Or is it Josianne, his alluring assistant, who rules his imagination?
Memory, passion, and the mysteries of time are entwined in this enthralling novel, a book that transports us not just to Paris but into the mysteries of the past. Elena Mauli Shapiro’s first novel is a masterly exploration, intimate and dramatic, of the stories we imagine about others’ lives and the truths those stories reveal about ourselves.
Praise for 13, rue Thérèse:
“13, rue Thérèse is a puzzle-novel and gave me the same fizzy satisfaction as completing a Sunday crossword. It will light up your brain and your heart.”
– David Ebershoff, bestselling author of The 19th Wife and The Danish Girl
“Shapiro’s debut, an imaginative, sensual rendering of a Parisian woman’s life, is told through the voice of Trevor Stratton, a young American scholar and translator working at a university in Paris. Stratton finds a box filled with objects dating back to WWI that once belonged to Louise Brunet, and his fascination with the box’s contents—postcards, handkerchiefs, love letters, and other vintage keepsakes—leads him to imagine what Brunet’s life in Paris might have been. What Stratton isn’t aware of at first is that the box was left for him by Josianne, a secretary at the university, who is using the box and its contents to measure Stratton’s romantic worthiness. As Stratton unfolds Brunet’s story against the background of WWI battlefields and several inventions—a lover, Camille Victor, who dies in battle; a resulting unhappy marriage to husband Henri; and a passionate affair with a married neighbor, Xavier Langlais—he gradually comes to realize that Josianne is the source of his archival inspiration. The book is illustrated with photos of the actual objects owned by Shapiro, cleverly used as the novel’s framing device.” – Publishers Weekly