Tatiana de Rosnay with this book gives her readers a glimpse of Paris of a bygone era
Change is good but a lot of people end up paying a heavy price for it, sometimes for no fault of theirs. Sometimes, nostalgia becomes the only respite from the transformation which your surroundings and your own life must go through to adapt to the future. Tatiana de Rosnay narrates the story of one such woman who cannot accept the fact that her neighbourhood, her house and her life are being razed as part of a bigger plan. The book is set in Paris when hundreds of buildings were being torn down in mid-19th century to transform Paris into a modern city and how one woman takes a stand to protect her past.
Set in the 1860s, Rose Bazelet, a Parisian widow, spends her days reminiscing about her husband who died several years ago. She lives on the rue Childebert in a house left behind by her husband. Having spent more than 40 years in this house, she has too many fond memories of her husband, her children and the best days of her life. She can’t think of leading a happy life beyond those four walls. When she receives a letter from the Prefect that her neighbourhood is going to be razed as a part of transforming the landscape of Paris, she’s shattered. Although she had an idea about the major renovations being carried out in the city, she didn’t expect this change to knock on her door.
Slowly she begins to write letters addressed to her dead husband, Armand Bazelet to pacify herself. Rose has fond memories of her childhood, the first time she saw Armand, the first time he kissed her, the beautiful love letters he had written for her, their kids and almost every other aspect till the day Armand died. A year after Armand’s death, she meets Alexandrine who befriends her and in her company, she tries to get over the grief. As Rose delves deep in her memories, she reveals too many secrets about her life and she also decides to fight back until the last breath of her life to protect her house.
Tatiana de Rosnay writes about Paris of a bygone era in such detail that you get a clear picture of life on rue Childebert. The prose is neatly written and Tatiana leaves enough clues behind to conjure an image of Paris in the 1860s when it was at the brink of a major transformation. For instance, Tatiana equates the massive construction to a land torn down by war. Only a person who is deeply in love with the past could have come up with descriptions like that. In another instance, she argues that houses have a soul and they remember a lot of things.
To summarise why Rose Bazelet loves her house so much, she 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. It has been damaged, it has suffered, it has been violated, it has survived, but today, it will collapse.” The House I Loved is a book for those who like nostalgia and it’s thought provoking at times. It is subtle and heartwarming in so many ways and at the same time, Tatiana paints a harrowing picture of how people respond to change especially when it destroys something which they love.
Name: The House I loved
Author: Tatania de Rosnay
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
About the Author (Author Profile)
Hemanth writes primarily about Telugu cinema, although he finds inspiration from the works of filmmakers like Woody Allen. Apart from writing, he spends most of his time on Twitter discussing about cinema, travel and life in Hyderabad.