About the Book:
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.
She proffered The Brothers Karamazov. “I wept when I finished.” Her voice swelled with emotion. “First because I was happy to have read it. Second because the story was so moving. Third because I’ll never again experience the discovery of it.”
Wonderful and well-researched story about occupied France. Loved the dual timelines! Highly recommend.
Any bookworm will love this story about the American Library in Paris set during World War II. Odile is a lovely protagonist and her obsession with the Dewey Decimal System was completely relatable. I really loved the dual timeline approach, weaving Odile’s story with that of young Lily in Montana several decades later.
There are many historical fiction stories set during WWII and I did find this storyline especially unique. I became immersed in the lives of each of the library’s subscribers and with the lives of each of the employees of the library. The love of reading and books bound them all together. I was especially touched by the author’s notes, where I learned that many of the characters were based on real-life people, which added a layer of richness to this novel.
Odile was not a perfect heroine but that made her actions all the more realistic. Her family suffers terribly during the German Occupation, like most of France did, but the author really shines when she describes the small, day-to-day details of Parisiennes’ lives. How did they survive German brutality and poverty? This book is not all grim, however, and in fact the writing is beautiful and the settings are magical, especially when the author describes Odile’s love and reference for reading:
“I ran my fingers along the spines. Choosing one, I opened to a random passage. I never judged a book by its beginning. It felt like the first and last date I’d once had, both of us smiling too brightly. No, I opened to a page in the middle, where the author wasn’t trying to impress me.”
This book should be on your list if you are a fan of historical fiction. The world created by Ms. Charles is filled with hope, life and a true love for the magic of books.
(Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy of the book, provided in exchange for an honest review.)