Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 324
In The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen, Henrietta is an eleven-year old girl who is traveling to her grandmother’s house. She stops in Paris and meets Miss Fisher, an acquaintance of her grandmother’s. They stop at Miss Fisher’s mother’s house, which she uses to house wealthy young girls for extended visits. Along the way, Miss Fisher tells Henrietta about Leopold, the nine-year old son of one of her good friends who has never met his mother. She cautions Henrietta not to ask him too many questions.
Henrietta meets Leopold, who is going to meet his mother for the first time. Henrietta talks to him briefly before spending time with Mme Fisher and Miss Fisher, during which Leopold goes through Miss Fisher’s purse hoping to find information about his mother. He reads letters not meant for him. When Miss Fisher and Henrietta come back downstairs, they receive a telegram and learn that Leopold’s mother isn’t coming after all.
The second part of the book is the story of Leopold’s mother, Karen, and father, Max, meeting after years apart and having the affair which resulted in Leopold’s conception—while Leopold’s father was engaged to Miss Fisher and his mother was engaged to Ray Forrestier. They talk of breaking off their engagements and marrying, but this doesn’t work out. Ultimately, Max takes his own life, and Karen leaves to have Leopold and marry Ray. Karen gives up Leopold for adoption.
In the third section of the book, Ray comes to pick up Leopold and bring him to his mother. He and Karen have always had problems because of Leopold’s existence and adoption, and Karen is too afraid to meet Leopold. Ray decides to do what he believes is right and comes to bring Leopold to his mother. He and Leopold leave the house together, dropping off Henrietta at the train station on their way.