Author: Nicolas Barreau
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Love Letters from Montmartre has been translated from German by Daniela Thiele. The author, Nicholas Barreau, was born in Paris, the son of a French father and German mother. He studied romance languages and literature at the Sorbonne and has worked in a bookshop on the Rive Gauche in Paris.
The main character in this novel is Julien Azoulay a novelist who is famous for his comedic romances. The novel starts shortly after Julien has lost his beloved wife Hélène to cancer leaving him alone with their young son Arthur. Hélène is buried in the famous Montmartre cemetery (where they met) and Julien is struggling to cope with life, to care for his son and to write again. Before she died Hélène made Julien promise that he would write 33 letters to her after her death (one for each year of her life). Julien is finding it incredibly hard to start the first and can’t understand why he should but of course he does and his life begins to change.
This is a truly delightful novel, I enjoyed the many different Parisienne characters (many of which it appears are heavy smokers), Jean-Pierre Favre, Julien’s publisher, who is a gentlemen and cares about his author. Cathérine, Hélène’s friend, who lives in the same block as Julien and Arthur, and Alexandra Bondy Julien’s closest friend who is a goldsmith and someone who doesn’t take any nonsense even from his closest friend.
At one of Julien’s visits to Hélène’s grave he meets Sophie Claudel a stoneworker who repairs the monuments in the cemetery and a new friendship begins. At the same time something strange starts happening with Julien’s letters to Hélène.
This novel addresses grief and how it affects us all, how sometimes we want to believe in miracles and how difficult it is to move on with life when we lose a loved one. It is also a novel of hope and new beginnings. The beauty of Paris shines through in the story through the author’s charming descriptions. The writing is lovely, the novel flows well, the characters are all ones it’s easy to believe in and care about – well apart perhaps from Madame Grenouille, the grumpy busybody in Julien’s apartment block.
Now I did say earlier that this novel was written by Nicolas Barreau but it appears there is some mystery around the author as the preface of the book refers to the name also being a pseudonym concealing the identity of a mysterious literary figure, unreachable except through his editor. Or is it her editor???
As you can tell I really did enjoy this novel and I thoroughly recommend it as an uplifting read. I’ll certainly be looking for the author’s other novels. Thank you to the publishers Hachette, via Piatkus, and the Beauty and Lace bookclub for the opportunity to read this novel.
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading this book. You can read their comments below, or contribute to the discussion by leaving your own feedback.
I was brought up on the classics in the UK but now I’m a Pozzie (British by Birth, Australian by choice) I’m enjoying discovering Australian works, we have some terrific storytellers. I’ve been a member of a local book club for a decade or so and that has also widened my choice of reading. I agree wholeheartedly with Stephen King: “Books are a uniquely portable magic”