The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles ~ 368 pages ~ to be published February 9, 2021 by Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)
Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.
Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.
Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.
A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.
What I Thought:
*I received this book for free from Netgalley and Atria Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*
You give me a WWII historical fiction novel about librarians and you can sign me up right away! I had never heard anything about the American Library in Paris before. I didn’t even know it existed, actually, which is a shame. I now know that the people who worked there during the Nazi occupation of Paris were brave beyond measure and incredibly inspiring.
The description of this library and the people who worked there was just so welcoming. It felt like getting a warm hug from a friend. As an aspiring librarian myself, I loved getting to learn more about the inner workings of this library during such a trying time in history (something that is being mirrored in certain ways by the trying times we are currently living in). Now I wish that I had known about this magical place so that I could have visited when I went to Paris a few years ago.
The characters in this story were very real and raw. It is always a little bit heartbreaking to read novels set in WWII because the heroines are usually so excitable and full of life at the beginning, only to become darker and more jaded by the end. This was certainly the case with Odile. I really liked her, and I liked the fact that you got to see the darker sides of her personality as well. People deal with stress and fear differently – and this novel illustrates this to devastating effect.
I will say that I was not as much of a fan of the sections about Lily. They were well written, but I just found myself wanting to speed through those sections to get back to the parts in Paris. This was the main reason that I lowered the rating of this book by a star.
I really enjoyed learning about the real people who kept the American Library in Paris up and running during the war. The fact that they put their own lives at risk in order to continue serving their Jewish and foreign patrons during the occupation is inspiring and beautiful. The power of the written word endures.
I gave The Paris Library 4 Stars!
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Are you a fan of WWII novels? Have you heard of the American Library in Paris? Are you interested in books about libraries, librarians, and books about books? Let’s chat in the comments!
Love and happy reading,