In her quietly elegant 11th novel, the bestselling author of Sarah’s Key again explores the idea of home as both sanctuary and embodiment of history… [Rose’s] letters, poetic and honest, reveal a world soon to be destroyed by progress. A mesmerizing look at how the homes and neighborhoods we occupy hold not only our memories but our secrets as well.
Parisian Rose Bazelet is a woman in mourning, for her husband and son, both long dead; for her distant daughter; and because of Napoleon III’s ambitious urban planning agenda in the mid-19th century, an enormous project that could destroy her beloved family estate. With the planners already leveling nearby houses, Rose hides in her cellar and writes letters to her deceased husband about her struggle to save their home. As the letters continue, and destruction grows near, Rose remembers her married life. With the planners “rattling about at the entrance” and taking her friend Alexandrine, who has come to rescue her, by surprise, Rose reveals to her late husband the dark secret she could never bring herself to tell him when he was alive. Though bestseller de Rosnay’s epistolary narrative is slow to build, it’s fraught with drama, as the Sarah’s Key author aims to create an immersive experience in a hugely transformative period in Paris (see Paul La Farge’s Haussmann, or the Distinction), when the city was torn between modernity and tradition. In Rose, one gets the clear sense of a woman losing her place in a changing world, but this isn’t enough to make up for a weak narrative hung entirely on the eventual reveal of a long-buried secret.
A strong marketing campaign and interest from fans of de Rosnay's popular Sarah's Key will undoubtedly spur demand for the title. However, many readers will likely be disappointed by de Rosnay's latest Paris novel, which relies more on telling than showing. —Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Mankato
Those who enjoyed Sarah’s Key will recognize de Rosnay’s love for her native France and appreciate the poignancy and tenacity of her characters.
Amid Baron Haussmann's demolition of her quartier, a woman refuses to leave her home in de Rosnay's latest (Sarah's Key, 2008, etc.).... [S]he writes a letter...reflecting on her life, and attempting to parse her own motivations. All tends toward the revelation of a secret she has confessed to no one. De Rosnay's delicacy and the flavor of her beloved Paris are everywhere in this brief but memorable book. Replete with treats, particularly for Paris-lovers—indeed for anyone wedded to a special place.
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