This book was on my list for a long time, and I'm glad I finally got a chance to read it. The author based this novel on a box she received when an elderly woman in her apartment building died without any relatives to claim her belongings. Elena used the box which contained pictures, old letters, and other mementos from this woman's life to write this novel. Pretty darn good idea!
The novel is about an American professor, Trevor Stratton, who arrives in Paris to teach at a university. His secretary, the mysterious Josianne leaves a box tucked away in his office. Eventually he finds it, and begins to piece together a life around the objects he's found in the box. That life belongs to Louise Brunet, a woman who lived through both world wars, and most of the story takes place in 1928. The more Trevor delves into the letters, rosary, and photos he finds, the more Louise's story becomes intriguing. Married to a jeweler, she mourns the loss of her cousin Camille, her first love who died in The Great War, and her inability to get pregnant after years of marriage. She is one restless woman.
But how much of this is true, and how much is Trevor making up? Where does the line between reality and fantasy blur? It really is a fascinating read. I was a bit surprised at the end--I guess I just wasn't paying enough attention to see it coming. Read it and see, and let me know what you think. This book is one to linger over; the author has put in pictures of everything Trevor finds in the box, so you can see exactly what he's talking about. It was a treat to read something very different; the author put a lot of thought into this story, and I appreciate how much work that must have been.