Title: The Paris Library
Author: Janet Skeskien Charles
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: February 9, 2021
Format Read: Ebook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: NetGalley
Date finished reading: March 1, 2021
Goodreads Description: 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.
My Review: I was fortunate to receive an ARC of The Paris Library from NetGalley. I took my time with this novel, as it was a very beautiful story.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about Lily as a character. I felt the depth at that character was very minor in comparison to Odile’s, but the relationship built between Odile and Lily was heartwarming and a useful tool in uncovering Odile’s past.
This story centers on Odile’s life in Paris much more than life in Montana. It introduces fascinating characters like her family and the workers and patrons of the American Library in Paris. I do believe the description of this book is correct in saying that the actions of the American Library in Paris and its librarians during World War II were in fact heroic. With all the World War II literature available, it is surprising that I never heard about how the American Library in Paris remained open during the war and Nazi occupation, and how the librarians risked prison camps or worse to deliver books to Jewish members of their community who were no longer allowed to visit the library per Nazi rule. They did their best to bring some light to people during so much darkness. The author really paints a vivid picture of the library’s characters and I enjoyed them immensely especially Miss Reeder and Boris. I think this felt a little like The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.
As Odile’s mysterious past in Paris during World War II is revealed, it is a story of intense love and loss. The friendship between Odile and Margaret is so moving that it truly breaks the readers heart when Margaret is attacked and that friendship ends.
While I did really enjoy this story, I do feel that the first half of the book was a bit slow, but the second half definitely picked up for me. I feel that that is because the author focused more on Odile’s Paris life and less on Lily’s Montana life during the second half of the book. I also believe that Odile, for being a main character, was not a very strong character and at times very unlikeable. She showed amazing strength and courage when it came to the library patrons and the hospital patients she attended to, but when it came to her closest friends like Bitsy and Margaret, she was often not very nice. Maybe it was the effects of war that made her so unkind, but I do wish she had defended Margaret and publicly vocalized her distaste for what Paul did instead of just running away to Montana and starting a new life. These points are the main reason that I can’t give this book a 5-star rating, but I did like the story overall.
My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½