The House I Loved
Paris is in a state of turmoil during the 1860s, but not because of war or famine – because of the improvement plan spearheaded by Napoleon III and enacted by Baron Haussmann. This improvement plan, intended to turn Paris into a modern city, requires the destruction of several neighborhoods and hundreds of buildings so wide boulevards can be constructed. Rose Bazelet lives in an old house on the rue Childebert, in one of the picturesque neighborhoods that Paris has always been known for. She grew up in the area, but the home belonged to her late husband’s family, and contains a lifetime worth of memories.
The narration alternates between the current day, where Rose’s home is slated for demolition, and flashbacks to two key times in Rose’s life: the early days of her marriage to Armand and the time immediately following his death. Readers are presented with the portrait of an affectionate marriage between two equals, but their lives are deeply affected by their tumultuous relationship with their daughter, Violette, and the death of their son, Baptiste. After Armand’s death, Rose builds a new family of neighbors and friends, but the destruction of their neighborhood tears them apart. When Rose realizes that she can no longer fight the destruction of her beloved home, she surrenders to the inevitable – but not in the way her friends or family expect.
De Rosnay brings these long-forgotten neighborhoods back to vivid life, reminding us of the connection between person and place and the memories held in the homes that we grow to love, and of what we lose when we destroy entire communities in the name of progress.