A Paris Bestseller - "The House I Loved"
I just finished reading Tatiana De Rosnay's newest
best seller "A House I Loved."
I was excited to read this book because it
tells the story of the urban renewal of Paris by Napoleon III and Baron George Haussman during the
Paris was a city of winding narrow streets and Napoleon with Haussman wanted to alter the face of old Paris
and mold it into a "modern city."
The plan was to raze all the homes
and businesses along certain streets to rebuild the
beautiful boulevards and homes that we
know so well today.
The book takes place in the Saint-Germain and
Rue de Rennes area where I have spent a good
deal of my time in Paris. I lived on the Rue
Dragon in a small apartment which is mentioned
in the book. That little street is a good example
of the Old Paris.
The book centers around Rose Bagelet, a widow,
who decides to remain in her husband's
family home. Her house is to be razed for the
construction of the Boulevard Saint-Germain.
As she sits in the basement of her house waiting for
the machines and men to tear down her beloved
home, she writes her last letter to her
husband Armand chronicling
her life and events since his death.
This is one of the hubs of the area with the small streets
running off of the circle. The streets are so narrow
that only one car can pass.
The Luxembourg Gardens close by were made smaller
to allow room for more boulevards and sewer lines.
The tree farm was eliminated altogether.
It's still one of the most beautiful parks in Paris.
It would not be a trip to Paris if I didn't spend
time here and nothing is more relaxing than a Sunday afternoon in the park.
Ms. De Rosnay mentions a mansion next to
Rue Dragon that is saved from demolition and is
now the flag ship of a prominent fashion designer.
The building in the forefront is the newer
Ralph Lauren store and restaurant but right next to it,
is the Head Office of Sonia Rykiel. That is
the designer I think she is referring to.
Right at the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and
Rue de Rennes is the famous Cafe Les Deux Magots.
It is by far the best people watching cafe in Paris
and I spend many hours drinking coffee or wine
getting my fill of Paris fashion on the move.
This statue is at the center of all the little streets
that still reflect the old Paris. The Rue Dragon
was so narrow that when you opened your windows,
the sound echoed all the conversations
of people walking below.
This is the post that described my neat apartment on
Rue Dragon. It was probably my favorite
place to stay in Paris. I really appreciate it now
that I have read the book and understand what
occurred during those tumultuous times
So many Parisians lost their homes and
businesses during this era of urban renewal
and were relocated to other areas
in Paris or to outlying areas. It would have been
very difficult to leave your home,
but I must say,
the result is now a most gorgeous city
made up of lovely narrow streets and beautiful
tree lined boulevards. Those people
paid the price for us to have the Paris
we now love.
Historically, "The House I Loved" was an interesting
read but the fictional story line was rather
onerous and weak. I was disappointed
in that aspect but thrilled to have a peek
into a Paris I never knew.
If you have read it,
what did you think?