I love moments of literary serendipity, when one book connects with another in an unexpected way. One of those moments has given me the pleasure of wandering all around Paris for about a week and a half.
In 13, rue Thérèse, much of the plot unfolds in the years immediately following the first world war, and is set in the upscale 1st Arrondissement on the right bank, near The Louvre. When I picked up my current read, The Invisible Bridge, I jumped ahead 15-20 years, to the onset of World War II. Hungarian immigrant Andras Lévi lives in a tiny garret in the Quartier Latin (5/6 Arrondissement, left bank), and studies architecture at the École Spéciale. Click on the map for a bigger view in Google Maps, and then you can even explore Paris using street view!
I was struck by the contrast between Andras Lévi, a Jew facing increasing persecution, and wealthy, Cath0lic Frenchwoman Louise Brunet in 13, rue Thérèse. And while 13, rue Thérèse is a work of fiction, Louise was a real person (read my review to learn more about the novel). Louise lived through World War II. How did she feel about the hordes of Eastern European immigrants who came to Paris? Was she aware of the persecution, and that many had to return to their now-dangerous home countries when the visa rules were suddenly changed? Or was Louise shielded from all that? I’m fascinated by the intersecting lives of these characters
I’m also enjoying a virtual tour of Parisian landmarks and architecture. Paris is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, and I have fond memories of exploring the city with my husband and two small children. We arrived in the Gare du Nord, took the Métro to St Germain des Pres, and emerged into a city still going strong very late in the evening. The next morning we got an early start, and must have walked every square inch of Paris. By dinner, the kids were so tired they nearly fell asleep at the table (it didn’t help that service was atrocious, but that’s another story …). Certain events of that long weekend, and a couple more short visits, are etched into our family memories. My younger daughter recently returned from a school trip to France, and we enjoyed comparing her recent experience with our vivid memories.
Last night I reached a point in The Invisible Bridge in which Andras leaves Paris. As he boarded the train, I was apprehensive about his future in the book, and sad to be leaving a favorite city. I’ll close with a picture of just one of Paris’ beautiful structures: the Musee d’Orsay, home of an amazing collection of impressionist art, and formerly a railway station (the Gare d’Orsay). Au revoir, Paris!