Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confused., 9 Feb 2011
This review is from: 13 Rue Thérèse (Hardcover)
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The author, we understand, came into possession of a box containing various bits and bobs such as letters, photographs and other detritus of an anonymous life.

Using the contents of this box, she has constructed a novel, a novel that is described as a puzzle. Who was this person? Who are all the people we find contained in the box? What was the significance of the two pairs of gloves, the two bullets fashioned into a pen holder? The odd coins? The rosary? The little calendar etc? While this sounds like an excellent idea, it does, unfortunately, bring to mind those 'writer prompts' that creative writing teachers give to their students. Here are some objects. Now write the novel...

Only the author can't leave it there. She adds more layers. I felt this added unnecessary obfuscation. It's one thing to create parallels and allusions but it's also far too easy to complicate matters so much that readers end up wading through fog. It goes like this (I think). A secretary in some educational establishment in Paris has a habit of leaving this box (the same one that the author owns) in the office of a succession of visiting academics--or at least those who intrigue her. We are told that the box always had 'an effect' on them. Her latest 'victim' is Trevor Stratton, an American. He becomes obsessed with the box and its contents, and so with the person to whom these items belonged-Louise Brunet. And after a while it becomes almost impossible to know what are Louise's thoughts and what those of Trevor imagining what Louise might be doing and thinking.

The puzzle becomes a feverish nightmare. (Fevers feature rather too much in this novel!)

Bizarre parallels appear between the various intertwined story strands and soon it seems that the two time lines melt into each other in a disturbing way. Orgasm/death/fever/obsession is one of them, as is blood and guts. Louise Brunet, as created by the author is (if one is kind) a woman affected by her inability to conceive or implied sexual abuse. Or you could be unkind and write her off as a silly, empty-minded sex-obsessed tease. Men seem to find her alluring; her husband, her lover and indeed, Trevor Stratton himself, who also has an affair with the secretary who gave him the box and who so happens to live at 13 Rue Therese, Louise's old home. Phew...

I closed the final page feeling that a fine opportunity had been wasted. I couldn't understand what was so fascinating about the Louise Brunet the author creates. This novel is either too clever by half or just not up to the job the author has given herself. I am too confused to decide. One thing I am sure of: it does not live up to the publisher's hype. Will I visit the 'innovative website'? I think not.
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