Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay — Audiobook Review

Produced by: Macmillan Audio
Narrated by: Kate Reading
Length: 5 hours 56 minutes

It’s 1840s France, and whole neighborhoods are being razed to the ground in order for the city to become restructured and modernized. Meanwhile, Rose Bazelet hides in the cellar of her abandoned home, refusing to leave no matter the cost. Rose has a long and troubled history with her home, as it was the home that her dearly loved and deceased husband was born and raised in, and it’s where she took her place as a young wife and raised her fledgling family. As Rose begins a series of letters to her beloved husband, the late Armand, she traverses the mental landscape of the Paris she once knew and loved. But from the meanderings of her mind, Rose will reveal a shocking secret that she’s kept hidden with as much skill as she is now hidden from the authorities who wish for her to vacate her home. And in her reflections of time passed, she will slowly uncover the great joys of her life as well as the stark tragedies. Is Rose destined to crumble fruitlessly along with her home, or will there be a moment when her resolve breaks, as her spirit did many years ago? In this atmospherically rich and emotionally complex tale, Tatiana de Rosnay weaves a spell spanning many years and countless heartbreaks, remembered in the troubled portrait of  of a city slowly being destroyed and painfully reassembled.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of reading Tatiana de Rosnay’s first book, Sarah’s Key. It was quite a memorable book and it made a deep impression on my psyche. A more deeply psychological look into grief and recompense could not be imagined. I was eager to get the chance to review this new offering by de Rosnay and was lucky enough to get to hear it on audio. The narration was performed by Kate Reading, and it was a very good choice for this book. Her French inflections and accent were rolling and smooth, and it was very pleasant to listen to her imparting the story. While I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as Sarah’s Key, there was a lot here to love, and I moved through it briskly and with great interest.

The book takes the format of a series of letters from Rose to Armand, and as each letter is created, Rose delves deeper and deeper into her history. While some of this information is startling and was not revealed to Armand in his lifetime, other reflections take place in the space of years that Rose has been a widow. As I was listening, I could feel Rose’s anguish for her lost way of life, and though she appears upbeat and even jovial at times, there were subtle undercurrents of tremendous grief in the story she told. A fractious and cruel mother, a daughter who she never felt an affinity for, and a son whom she may have loved too much. All this Armand was spared, but now, seeing the end of her home, Rose feels as if she must come clean about the hidden sides of her life. It was in these helpless remembrances that I grew close to Rose and to feel a protective urgency towards her that I couldn’t shake.

After Armand’s death, Rose becomes a friend to the sagacious and opinionated young flower seller who occupies a space for her shop in one part of the great house Rose lives in. It’s in this friendship that I could see the push for modernity become something very tangible and real, and it’s almost as if de Rosnay introduces this character as a personification of the change that is rapidly spreading across the countryside. Though Rose and the young woman remain close and loving to each other, they couldn’t be further apart in their convictions of what should be done with the city. On the whole, it was a very interesting interplay between young and old, new and tarnished, and it’s this friendship that makes the very last sentences of the book seem so powerful and tragic.

The secret that Rose has kept from Armand is heavily foreshadowed, but when was revealed, I was taken aback. The force with which she protected this secret for so many years shed light on not only the powerful fortitude of Rose, but also on the strange predicament that she had within her family as a mother. In a way, she was protecting her family and all that she held dear, but the repercussions wore on her mentally and may have imparted a fatalistic bent to her personality. It’s interesting to contemplate this after having listened to the book, and to sit and think on it now leaves me wondering ever the more. Who is Rose without her hurts and losses? Who are the people she now relies on and will they be a comfort to her when all is lost?

This was a very interesting look into a period and place that I knew virtually nothing about, and by crafting the very personal story of Rose into this devastating backdrop, Tatiana de Rosnay has given readers a lot to consider and to explore. As with her other books, secrets long hidden become like live bombs in the hands of those who seek to recollect them. An emotionally percussive and solidly powerful read, made perfect in its execution. Recommended.

If you're interested in hearing a clip of the audiobook, please click below and enjoy!





This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

23 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I'm very curious about the secret now.

Wall-to-wall books said...

I read another review of this book just the other day. I thought this book looked real interesting.
Love the cover!!
Nice review, as usual Heather!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Me too - I want to know the secret! LOL

Harvee said...

I have not read her books but plan to! This one sounds atmospheric and interesting. Very nice review!

Jenners said...

I always want to know secrets too. I always get sucked in to books to find out what they are when a reviewer teases them. I like how you include audio clips with your audio reviews now.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I liked Sarah's Key well enough, but parts of it drove me crazy (the modern parts). So if you liked that one better, I would hesitate with this one. On the other hand, it is very short. I could probably knock it out with a long housecleaning. I'm going to think about it...

Suko said...

Terrific, detailed review, and the audio is quite enticing as well.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I really enjoyed Sarah's Key, and I will be adding this one to my wish list. Great review!

I love the cover.

Stepping Out of the Page said...

Fantastic review, very thoughtful and it has given me great insight into the book. Thank you for sharing. I'm new to your blog! :)

Stephanie
- Please visit my latest post & if you haven’t already, enter my International Giveaway!

Jenny said...

Wow this sounds great! I might read it just to figure out the secret, lol! I have been meaning to read something by this author since Sarah's Key came out but I never have!

Marg said...

I still haven't managed to read any of this author's books, despite having owned Sarah's Key for ages and wanting to read it!

softdrink said...

You've piqued my curiosity over that secret!

And how cool that the narrator's name is Reading.

Lisa said...

I have yet to read "Sarah's Key" but plan to get to it yet this year. Sounds like this one needs to be added to my wish list as well!

Jules said...

I have Sarah's Key on my shelf, but now you have me interested in this book too! I love the idea that it's told through letters and the characters sound like they were created with care. Excellent review.

Aths said...

Looks like even if this book wasn't as good as Sarah's Key (which I haven't read yet), this one still delivers! I will be looking forward to reading this, though I'm hoping to read Sarah's Key first.

Kailana said...

I plan to read this at some point. I enjoyed Sarah's Key. I am glad you enjoyed it!

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

you've got to stop recommending books! my tbr list just from you has grown so out of control i don't know if i can ever catch up!
i have sarah's key to read in the near future and now i must listen to this one so i can find out the secret! very tantalizing review!

TheBookGirl said...

Thanks so much for including these audio clips with your reviews -- for me, the narrator is a deal breaker when it comes to audiobooks. If I don't like the narrator, I won't listen, period. So you are doing me a great service by giving me a sneak peek, or should I say, sneak listen :)

I'm probably one of the last ones out there that hasn't read Sarah's Key...Have you read the second book, A Secret Kept? Of the three, I guess you'd say Sarah's Key is the best?

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I *really* like SARAH'S KEY (the historic story more so than the contemporary), but never got around to reading A SECRET KEPT. Funny that this latest novel also involves a secret ...

And, your review has me quite curious about that -- thanks, Heather!

Amy said...

You have piqued my interest in this book and not just because of the major secret Rose has. I'm intrigued that she's hiding in her house and writing letters to her deceased husband. Rose certainly is interesting and his quite a bit from Armand. She's also obviously in a lot of pain.

I haven't read any books by Tatiana de Rosnay yet but I think it's about time I got on this! I so enjoy your reviews, Heather, thank you!

Darlene said...

I loved Sarah's Key and my library has this one on audio. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It makes me more anxious to get to it.

Buried In Print said...

It's always impressive when a story, in which the revelation was foreshadowed, and heavily foreshadowed at that, still manages to provoke a response from us as readers: that's pretty sweet. Sounds like you enjoyed this one a great deal!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I've always wondered how audio books sounds. thanks for the insert.

The book sounds like a confession of sorts or a healing process. And change is something that is difficult to take in especially if one has lived with the pre-change conditions his or her entire life.

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