Book Review: The Paris Library

1112Title: The Paris Library
Author: Janet Skeskien Charles
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: February 9, 2021
Pages: 368
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

Happy Holidays: A Year in Review 2018

istockphoto-92869737-640x640

As the holiday season is in full swing, and we are getting ready to go on vacation, we wanted to put together a note to let all our friends and family know what we have been up to in 2018.

We continue to build and grow our lives in Houston. It has been a bit of a struggle to grow accustomed to life back in the States after living in Italy for a few years, but we feel that we are finally adjusting.

Earlier this year, Sarah left her position at a local public library to become a Grants Administrator at MD Anderson Cancer Research Center. After nine months at this position, she is thriving and really enjoying her work. MD Anderson has been named the top cancer hospital in the United States and, as of this year, can also boast of having a Nobel laureate as one of the faculty members. The work that MD Anderson does is very important in caring for patients with cancer and researching a cure for all cancer. This summer, Sarah realized first hand how important this work is, as her aunt passed away from lymphoma cancer.

Aunt JoAnn meant a lot to us. We have been fortunate enough to have spent quality time with her in Arizona, Texas and when she visited us in Italy. We shared many wonderful moments and laughs with her. We admired her love of life, family and friends. We love her and miss her every day.

Greg had a lot of traveling this year to exciting locations like Paris France (see pictures below) over the summer (the absolute best time to get out of the Houston heat) and Sao Paolo Brazil, as well as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.  He also had a trip to Cincinnati, so not all of the travel is to somewhere exotic.  Fall 2018 was his first semester teaching undergraduates, and he had 130 students in an intro to physics course.  It went well overall, and every week was able to get a laugh during class (which means the students were awake).  The reviews aren’t back yet, but the students probably learned something!  He’s been doing research with two really good students on neuroscience and the physics of the cytoskeleton as well.

While Greg did travel a lot for work this year, we didn’t travel collectively for fun that much, mostly because of Sarah’s new job. We did visit Greg’s brother and sister-in-law in Ohio for a weekend, but that was our only real travel adventure this year. As we are big adventurers, we had to rectify this, so after spending time with Sarah’s family on Christmas, we will be heading on a Caribbean cruise. We are looking forward to island-exploring, basking in sun, and lots of rest and relaxation.

I hope you all have an enjoyable holiday season! Feel free to drop us a line below to let us know how you are doing. We love you all!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

20181220_091715

20 Years of Travel #18: Paris

960275_10151862980857986_603021040_n

The 20 Years of Travel series continues by featuring the City of Love: Paris, France. I grew up watching old movies that were set in Paris: An American in Paris, Funny Face, Gigi, and many more. I dreamed of seeing this amazing city. I went for the first time in 2006. I was a bit disappointed with Paris at that time. I can now say that my disappointment was almost completely due to lack of planning on my part. I was traveling to Paris with a classmate of mine after we finished a graduate course in Geneva, Switzerland. As students, we had a tight travel budget. I was able to get a discount on a hotel in Paris through my job at home, but that unfortunately was located on the outskirts of the city. It ended up costing a lot of money and time to travel into the city center. We also were visiting in the middle of the summer tourist season and 100 degree heat. We waited in the heat for hours to get into Notre Dame (pictured above), which was worth it, but unpleasant. My most amateur mistake was waiting until our final day in Paris to go to the Louvre, which was a Tuesday, the day that the Louvre is closed. We decided to go visit Versailles instead, which was impressive but was under renovation and none of the fountains were turned on.

Luckily, almost ten years later, I decided to give Paris another try. I had a much better experience. We stayed in the city center, smallest hotel room ever, but worth it for the location. We also went in the middle of December which in my opinion is the best time to see Paris. There are minimal tourists and beautiful Christmas markets everywhere. I believe there is also a lot to be said about experiencing the same city at different points in one’s life as well.

Things to do and see:

Champs Elysees

1526233_10151862981607986_823552172_n

The Champs Elysees is one of the most famous avenues in the world, leading to the Arc de Triomphe.

Roue de Paris

This is a large ferris wheel off of the Champs Elysees, where you can experience amazing views of Paris.

The Seine

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are walkways along the Seine, where you can take romantic strolls with views of the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower

Of course you have to explore the Eiffel Tower. My friends and I went up to the top at sunset for the amazing views and then decided to walk down, which wasn’t as strenuous as I thought it would be. I only had a problem with my little fear of heights and the fact that you could feel the tower sway a bit.

Notre Dame Cathedral

This is the famous gothic-style cathedral in Paris. If you have an opportunity, do the gargoyle tour as well as exploring the inside of the cathedral.

Favorite Bookstore

580855_10151862981742986_885024562_n

If you are a booklover like me, Shakespeare and Company Bookstore is a must!

The Louvre

This amazing art museum did not allude me on my second visit to Paris. December is a much better time to visit this museum anyway. I was there at opening time and got to stand alone in front of the Mona Lisa for twenty minutes.

Musee d’Orsay

Musee d'Orsay Collection

This is my favorite art museum in Paris as I love all things Degas, Renoir and Monet. The above picture shows just a few of my favorites.

Christmas Markets

If you find yourself in Paris around Christmastime, you can experience a plethora of amazing Christmas markets that are set up all over the city.

Sights I Still Want to See

Two trips to Paris were not enough to see everything I wanted to. I still have not gone to Sacre Couer and the catacombs. Hence, why they are not featured here. Those will just have to wait until my next visit.

Day Excursions:

Versailles

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Less than a hour train ride from Paris is the Palace of Versailles. Not only is Versailles featured prominently in history, but it contains beautiful art and expansive gardens. Many of my husband’s pictures are featured above as he recently got to see Versailles with minimal renovations and working fountains, unlike my original visit to Versailles.

Rouen

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Less than a two-hour train ride from Paris, Rouen is an idyllic French town. We visited because of our interest in Joan of Arc, but there was so much more to this town. Definitely one of my favorite places.

Excursion I Still Want to Make

As mentioned before, I really love Monet paintings. Monet’s home and where he found some of his inspiration is located less than an hour from Paris in the town of Giverny.

If you are looking for more excursions into Normandy from Paris, see my Normandy link below.

Related Posts:

PARIS, FRANCE (December 2013)

Normandy, France – October 2014

I am sure Paris and I will meet again soon!

Happy Travels!!!

1530481_10151862974812986_1556853487_n

PARIS, FRANCE (December 2013)

Eiffel Tower

My husband had some business to attend to in Paris, so I went along just to explore a bit. I had been to Paris before but had had limited time to do everything that I wanted to do.  I also had gone to Paris with little preparation the last time. This time I had ideas of what I wanted to do and planned accordingly. Paris is amazing in December before Christmas. It isn’t overcrowded with tourists and the Christmas decorations are stunning.

Sites

Louvre Museum: Last time I was in Paris, I made the gigantic mistake of not knowing that the Louvre was closed on Tuesdays. I figured museums would be closed on Sundays or Mondays. That is a very incorrect assumption. This time I arrived at the Louvre on a Monday morning when it opened at 9am. I got in quickly and made my way immediately to the Mona Lisa. It was a fantastic plan, because the area around the Mona Lisa was pretty much empty. As it is a very tiny picture, it is hard to view when there are crowds in front of it. I had a perfect view. However, by the time I made it to the Venus di Milo statue by 10:30am, it was significantly more crowded.

Shakespeare and Company: As a huge lover of books, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to check out one of the most famous independent bookstores in the world. It was adorable. However, it is tiny, so if you have more than 20 people in there, it can be hard to move around. They have everything from used and new books to a library that can only be read inside the store.

Musee d’Orsay: I can’t believe that I never went to this museum before. I am a huge fan of Impressionistic art. I love artists like Monet, Degas, and Renoir. I preferred this museum over the Louvre actually. I had never seen so many Monet paintings in one place. It was breathtaking. This museum also included some famous paintings by Van Gogh, Matisse, and Pissaro. I found works of art that were new to me that I enjoyed immensely including Henri Gervex’s “Madame Valtesse de la Bigne” and Millet’s “Le Printemps.” I also became a fan of works by Sisley, Cross, Luce, and Signac. I did tear up when I saw Degas’ “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” and Monet’s “Coquelicots.” If you get there right at 9:30am when the museum opens, it is not too busy. I recommend heading straight to the 5th level. That area is crowded later in the morning as I found out. This museum is closed on Monday. I believe this has been my favorite art museum so far, and that is saying a lot after loving the Smithsonian, Rijksmuseum, and the Met.

Mona Lisa (Louvre)

Musee d'Orsay Collection

Food

  1. Starbucks: It is surprising, but I do miss Starbucks. There is no Starbucks in Lucca, Italy, so when I travel elsewhere, I do try to enjoy at least one beverage from Starbucks. Fortunately, there was a Starbucks conveniently located inside the Louvre Museum. I got to enjoy one of their Christmas blends.
  2. Rue du Petit Pont: After going to the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, I went to a nearby restaurant where I could have a hamburger. This is another food item that reminds me of home in the States that I rarely can get in Lucca, Italy. I had a glass of French wine with the burger. The meal was unimpressive, but the waitstaff was fantastic. I was in and out of the restaurant in 30 minutes. Everything was so efficient. It allows me more time to enjoy the sites when I don’t have to sit and wait forever to be served or for my food to arrive.
  3. Chez Marc: This is a Lebanese restaurant in the south of Paris that my husband’s boss took us to. For 25 Euro a person, we had endless plates of food, about 3 bottles of wine, and a round of Anisette (French liquor). The food was absolutely amazing. I am normally a pretty picky eater, but I ate everything that was passed around. I would highly recommend this place!
  4. Crepes: If you have never had this French specialty, you need to. I had never had one before and tried the Caramel crepe. It was so delicious that I probably could have had ten more.
  5. Fajitas: Near our hotel, there was a Mexican restaurant that we had to try. I think finding good Mexican food is the most rare thing in Italy, so we really were hankering for good fajitas and margaritas.  We were not disappointed. The meat and vegetables were fantastic, but they also had refried beans which was a welcome surprise as we haven’t had refried beans in a long time. It was a perfect way to end our lovely in Paris!

Christmas Markets

My favorite part of Paris during December is the amazing holiday lights, decorations, and markets. There is a large Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame. Right next to Notre Dame on the other side of the Siene River is a little Christmas market. One can’t miss the Christmas lights and market on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées by the Arc de Triomphe. The market supplied us with amazing food and beer, Christmas music and gift items, displays of Christmas lights, and even an appearance by Santa in his sleigh.

I don’t think I would want to visit Paris at any other time of year. It was perfect!

Arc de Triomphe