Title: Love Letters from Montmartre
Author: Nicolas Barreau
Publisher: 26th November 2019 by Hachette
Pages: 250 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
My Rating: 3.5 cups
Julien Azouly, the famous French writer of beautiful romance novels, has stopped believing in love. When his beloved wife, Hélène, dies at the age of thirty-three, leaving him alone to raise their young son, Arthur, he is so devastated that he loses faith in the happier side of life—and along with that his ability to write.
But Hélène was clever. Before her death, she made her husband promise to write her thirty-three letters, one for each year of her life. Six months after the funeral, Julien finds himself standing in the most famous cemetery in Paris, the painful first letter in his hand. Little does he know that something strange—and wonderful—is about to happen.
An ode to love, Paris, and joie de vivre, Love Letters from Montmartre brings the reader down narrow streets, past the cozy red bistro on Rue Gabrielle, and all the way to Montmartre cemetery with its beautiful stone angels, where we will discover the truth we all hope to find: that love is real, that miracles can happen and that—most of all—it’s never too late to rediscover your dreams. Empathetic and wise, this is the deeply profound yet very human story of a man who finds love just when he thinks all is lost.
‘Maman told me that you have to trust in life itself and that, in the end, everything will make sense. But when it comes to your death, my darling, I still can’t see any sense at all.’
How would it feel to lose the love of your life as you are just beginning your journey together? The author here presents a truly telling tale of the utter devastation felt by the main character, Julien. When his wife died, leaving him to care for his young son, we are witness to the complete grief and helplessness he feels.
His wife, Helene, cleverly made a last request that Julien promise to write one letter to her for each of her 33 years. Struggling to fulfill this last request, Julien finally begins and ultimately finds the whole process somewhat therapeutic. The letters are placed in a secret compartment of an angel statue found at his wife’s grave site located in the Montmartre cemetery in Paris.
‘Where are these letters leading me, Hélène? Are they even leading me anywhere? Or are they simply a nice pastime, a kind of self-gratification for a man who has lost his wife and can’t stop feeling sorry for himself and thus clings to the last little trace of hope? Clings to a dead woman who is lost forever? What kind of pointless game is that? But what am I saying?! No, my love, forgive me! None of my letters to you are pointless.’
One day the letters vanish and he sees this as a sign. Thus proceeds the moving tale of both his quest to understand what is going on and also the mystery to see who is indeed responsible. Is it a sign from his wife or a gesture by another kind being to engage with Julien and bring him back to the land of the living?
This is a heartfelt story as you feel the plight of Julien trying to recover from his loss and the kind people around him who never give up in their attempt to draw him back into a life worth living.
‘You once told me that writing the letters would possibly help me - and you were right, my clever wife. When I write these letters to you, I feel distracted. They knit my life back together, open a new perspective, keep me going. And the prospect of finding an answer at the grave naturally heightens these feelings all the more.’
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher Hachette Australia.