Saturday, April 26, 2014

Altered Book - Barbara and Blanche Rose

This is an altered book I created based on a backstory I wrote about the two main characters.

Here are spreads from the book accompanied by the story.

Barbara Elizabeth LaVette was born in 1900 in Paris.  Her parents Edward Stephan and Elizabeth Marie were living abroad for a period of twenty years while Edward ran the Paris division of the world-wide Nagrom Bank.  Barbara’s brother Stephen, four years older, was also born in Paris. He and Barbara were very close and his death, by gas, in the trenches of Ypres in 1915 was devastating to his younger sister.  The family had returned to New York when France entered the war, but Stephen had remained to fight for the only country he had ever known.

      Barbara’s ancestors on her father’s side had left France in the 1820’s during economic unrest to try and reverse their fortunes in the bustling streets of 19th century New York.  By the time of the Civil War the LaVettes owned a shipping line and two iron foundries.  At the end of the war their worth had trebled and Edward’s grandfather moved into banking.  Edward, born in 1870, took to the financial life like a cat to cream and by the time he was sent abroad to handle the Parisian affairs he had been in the family business for seven years already.  He took with him his youth, intelligence, zest for life, and his new bride Elizabeth Marie Beauregard of the Charleston Beauregards – a South Carolina family who traced their residency in American back to 1695.

     The LaVettes lived in the 5th Arrondisement near the Panthenon and the Luxembourg Gardens.  Stephen attended the nearby Henri 4th Ecole des Garcons.  Barbara went to the Covent School of the sisters of St. Agnes d’ Angneau.  It was here, in 1910, that she first met Blanche-Rose La Chapelle when Barbara was ten and Blanche-Rose eight.  Even then Blanche-Rose was painting and drawing and Barbara loved to write.  They became fast friends and it was a sad day for both when war broke out and the LaVettes made the decision to return to the safety of New York.

     Blanche-Rose LaChapelle was born in 1902 in the apartment above her parent’s café on the Blvd. St. Michel, Café ChouChou.  She was the third child, having an older sister Camille, and a brother Claude who was killed in WWI a scant few months before the November Armistice.  Though not as close as Barbara and Stephen, still Claude’s death affected Blanche-Rose deeply.  Always a shy child, she withdrew even more.  Her father Paul Henri, and her mother Hannah Louise, married in 1896.  Claude was born a year later and her sister Camille in 1899.  Their father ran the family café that was his father’s before him, Hannah at his side.  Hannah’s aunt Adrienne had made Blanche-Rose her favourite great niece.  Who knows why, who can say?  When she died in 1907 she left money for Blanche-Rose to attend the nearby convent school.

 It was here she met Barbara.  The girls were inseparable and spent afternoons at the café or the Luxembourg Gardens near Barbara’s home.  They played childish games. Blanche-Rose painted, Barbara wrote stories, they made plans for a future that changed abruptly in August of 1914.  The afternoon before the LaVettes left for America the two girls shared a last meal on the terrace of Café Chou-Chou.  Barbara’s sadness at leaving not only her friend, but the only home she had ever known was made even greater due to the fact that Stephen was staying behind to fight the Germans, had, in fact, already enlisted.  Blanche-Rose’s brother Claude had gone with him three days before and both would be leaving soon for training camp.

   The usual promises to write and keep in touch were made through shaky tears.  Barbara, with all the drama of her fourteen years, clasped Blanche-Rose’s hand and said “I vow to return to Paris and to you ma petite. When this is over, when the world is sane once more, I will come back!”  And little Blanche-Rose replied “I believe you ma amie, c’est vrais.”   The LaVettes took the train from Gare St. Lazar the next morning and the following day were on a ship out of Le Harve for New York.

    The war drug on for four merciless years, America finally joining the fray, long after Stephen had given his life.  Barbara and Blanche-Rose wrote, but mail was uncertain and eventually no more letters came from France.

 Barbara attended high school in Manhattan and then Columbia University majoring in journalism.  Her father’s contacts and her talent got her a job on the New York Daily Herald in 1920.  By 1922 she had made a name for herself and decided to take some time off to write a novel.  And where better than in Paris?

 Blanche-Rose spent the war helping her parents in the Café and finishing her years at school.  Great Aunt Adrienne’s money stretched to cover a painting teacher for Blanche-Rose in the years after the war.  Now in 1922 she has had a few shows in local galleries on the Left Bank and is beginning to be noticed in artistic circles. And now the stage set for Barbara and Blanche Rose to meet once again under Parisian skies.  The writer and the painter, now grown and reunited.


  1. Cool! Love the book AND the story ~ but you've left me hungry for more!!

  2. bobbie - I did do a prequel called "Fighting Angel" about the girls' brothers during WWI. I'll feature it in an upcoming blog post. But I've always wanted to do one about the further adventures of Barbara and Blanche Rose - maybe a nice project for this summer.