Finished January 30
13 rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro
This very unusual novel was inspired by a box of mementos the author had possession of. She built this story around them. The back cover describes the book as a puzzle-novel.
In the novel, a young American scholar in nineteenth century French literature is taking a position at a Paris university. His name is Trevor Stratton. The secretary at the university, Josianne, has a ritual of giving a box of artifacts indirectly to a visiting foreign professor and seeing what happens. The box chooses to return to her following each episode. She does not do this every year, only when something draws her to a certain one. The contents of the box have been known to induce fevers, including with Josianne herself when she first came upon it.
We see the reaction of Trevor through letters he writes to someone, whom he addresses only as "sir". Sometimes there are rambling. Sometimes he describes what he finds, providing images and translations. Sometimes he appears to know things that are impossible for him to know, as if he had actually been present at moments in the past.
The author provide a list of the mementos with QR codes beside each one. These links take you to enhanced versions of the images, and are also available through the website www.13ruetherese.com.
This is a passionate book, full of emotion. I loved the uncertainty, the way I had to work things out. A book like no other I've read.