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The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles, is described as a ‘novel of courage and betrayal in occupied Paris’. Yes, perhaps it is. Betrayal comes in several forms: a friend betrayed for taking up with a German soldier in occupied Paris, small slights and insults and later, a careless betrayal that leads to a painful confession. The story alternates between two time frames – the period leading to and through World War II and the 1980s in a small town in Montana, USA, as the reader follows the life of Odile a smart young Frenchwoman who loves books to the point of knowing the Dewey Decimal System of classification off by heart. The Library in question is the American Library in Paris and the author paints a vivid picture of life in the library from the perspectives of both the colourful cast of characters who work there and the ‘subscribers’ – the people who pay to borrow the books. The Library is a front-and-centre character in the tale and the author has done considerable research to make it so. Under the German occupation the city of Paris provides a dramatic backdrop to the tale. Just as the young Odile is mentor-ed by the director of the American Library so the much older Odile (a women with a secretive past) takes on the teenage Lily whose dreams of flying far away from her somewhat difficult homelife after the untimely death of her mother. The reader is drawn into the story, knowing that the war years can only bring tragedy and heartache. The writing is warm and fluid and if the ending is somewhat rushed with a major revelation merely air-brushed into the narrative, it was an enjoyable read.
A very uplifting book and all the more important as based on fact. How brave people were during the war. This period in time should never be forgotten. So many more aspects to it than just the fighting!
A book about a library in one of the world’s most beautiful cities... what’s not to love. The main character Odile is a young book obsessed young girl and I loved her. In 1939 she gets the chance to work in the American Library in Paris, her dream job. She is happy and making like minded friends. And the the war breaks out and the Nazis invade Paris.. and everything changes.
Then we have Lily in 1983 Montana. She makes a friendship with the old lady next door who her hides away on her own and has some long kept secrets. The bond between the 2 is lovely.
This book is inspired in real life events and it was really interesting to learn about a different side of the war. The librarians who fought to keep working, to send books to the soldiers and the people of Paris as an escape from their new reality. The friendships and heartbreaks of the characters were heartwarming and heartbreaking.
An emotional and educational read that I really enjoyed.
Paris, 1939: Odile Souchet is a girl obsessed with both the Dewey Decimal System and her boyfriend Paul and has just been employed as a librarian at the American Library in Paris. With the shadow of another war looming, she and her parents are worried about her twin brother Remy and of course he joins the French army. The German army easily overcome the Maginot Line, they march into Paris and the Parisians are now living in a city with new rules and regulations.
Guided by Miss Reader, the library has already started to hide many of the thousands of precious books and the librarians deliver books to Jewish people who can no longer use the library and soldiers convalescing in hospital. When the war finally ends instead of celebrating Odile is devastated she has been betrayed by the person she thought she could trust and loved.
Montana, 1983: Lily Froid is a lonely teenager; she is doing a school project and decides to ask her elderly neighbor Odile some questions. Odile is a widow; they refer to her in town as the war bride, she arrived in 1945 married to Buck Gustafson and no one knows anything about her life before moving to Montana? One day Lily crosses the line by snooping into Mrs. Gustafson past and she does uncover things about her neighbor’s life in Paris during WW II and has her invading her friend’s privacy ended their friendship?
The story focuses on the complex relationships between the main characters in the book, too many to mention, it has a dual timeline and I had no trouble following it. The Paris Library is an unforgettable story about choices, friendship, loyalty, family, deceit, loss, betrayal and books. Heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places and that’s the library. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and I gave The Paris Library five stars.
The Paris Library is a fine example of why I love historical fiction, it's a wonderful opportunity to learn something new and to connect with the experiences of those who came before us. With a wonderful blend of well-researched fact & fiction in Janet Skeslien Charles' story telling, I learned of the American Library in Paris and the courage of the women & men who kept the library operating "as a symbol of freedom and understanding, of service to all, a fine piece of democracy.” Dorothy Reeder I loved the use of dual timelines. I think this mechanism was used well to build tension and generate a sense of mystery. The dual timelines also highlight the valuable learnings we can take away from other's experiences as we slowly come to understand the similarities between Odile & Lily. I do feel that Odile's timeline was the stronger of the two and I wasn't emotionally connected with either narrators - like I often am in historical fiction, but I think this was due in part to the deliberate manner with which Odile's story unfolds. #TheParisLibrary explores human nature and how jealousy, paranoia, hatred, fear and grief can bring out the ugliness in people or test your moral compass, to devastating consequences. Despite the wartime setting, #TheParisLibrary is also a story that will leave you with hope.