I have always loved reading about different time periods in history. This particular book takes place in Paris in the 1860s when Emperor Napoleon decided to modernize the city. I have always dreamed of visiting Paris and the author transports you right there. You can hear the conversations of the shopkeepers opening their doors on the cobblestone roads. You can smell the fresh bread from the bakery and the flowers from the florist. You can see the elegant fashions of the time period and be a part of the daily domestic rituals of the main character.
It was a delight reading the events of the time period through Rose Bazelet’s letters. I felt as if I was right there feeling her pain and frustration first with her husband’s illness and then the news of the emperor’s plan of modernizing the city. At first I thought that the modernization and expanding of a city would be a good thing. This novel opened my eyes to the viewpoints of the people who have lived generations at the same houses on the quiet old streets of Paris. This is the only life they and their families have ever known. They have been born here, started families here, watched their children grow, and have died here. Neighbors have formed friendships with each other and with the shopkeepers. A community has been formed.
As a reader I learned about Rose’s family and how she met her husband. She became close to her mother-in-law and cherished the house her husband grew up in. Her marriage was a beautiful union to read about as she reflected upon her past through letters she wrote to her deceased husband. I became a part of the friendships she formed and the people she cared about. The house became her life line, part of her soul. It wasn’t just a building and that is what made this book so special. This is what gave Rose the determination to fight to keep her house from being destroyed during Napoleon’s master plan. While others fled to new houses on bigger streets, Rose staked claim in the basement of her house until the very end.
The House I Loved is both a powerful story of one woman’s strength as well as an ode to the old Paris.The House I Loved,