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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Villa des Roses

Willem Elsschot

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To purchase Villa des Roses

Title: Villa des Roses
Author: Willem Elsschot
Genre: Novel
Written: 1913 (Eng. 1992)
Length: 137 pages
Original in: Flemish
Availability: Villa des Roses - US
Villa des Roses - UK
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Villa des Roses - France
Villa des Roses - Deutschland
  • Flemish title: Villa des Roses
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Paul Vincent
  • Villa des Roses was made into a film in 2002, directed by Frank Van Passel and starring Julie Delpy

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nice period (and place) piece

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Villa des Roses is set almost entirely in the eponymous Parisian boarding house run by the Brulots. Chapters focus on the different inhabitants of the house -- the Brulots (and their small pet monkey), the lodgers, some of the maids --, the book ambling along until the dissolution of the household, modern times overtaking this small anachronism (or island).
       The boarders are a very mixed group, including the ancient Madame Gendron, who is "the financial mainstay of Villa des Roses" since Madame Brulot can charge her (or her relatives, glad to have her off their hands and taken care of) a relatively exorbitant amount. Other guests include Monsieur Martin and the Polish mother and daughter that live with him (in a room that hasn't been paid for for several months), a Norwegian lawyer trying (very unsuccessfully) to learn French, and the German from Breslau, Richard Grünewald, who eventually has an affair with one of the maids, Louise.
       Villa des Roses describes life in the boarding house, both generally and then in specific episodes. Among other things, there's a suicide, an annual champagne party (that Madame Brulot cleverly uses as another money-making scheme, not that there's much in it), the tragic fate of the monkey, and Louise and Richard's love affair, episodes small and large that are nicely related.
       Villa des Roses offers slices of a variety of lives, amusing and melancholy takes on a variety of people at different stages of their lives. There are several sharp portraits, and though some of the boarders remain relatively vague figures (it is a crowded house) or come and go barely noticed, the picture is a realistic one, as in real life some making more of an impression than others, and some stories more compelling than others.
       Without a true centre, Villa des Roses is more a collection of overlapping stories than a truly unified novel, but it's well done, in turn amusing and touching. A nice little read.

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Villa des Roses:
  • dbnl information page
Reviews: Villa des Roses - the film: Willem Elsschot: Other books by Willem Elsschot under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Flemish author Willem Elsschot (actually: Alfons Josef de Ridder) lived 1882 to 1960 and wrote eleven short novels.

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© 2005-2012 the complete review

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