Based on the true World War II story of the American Library in Paris, an unforgettable novel about the power of books and the bonds of friendship—and the ordinary heroes who can be found in the most perilous times and the quietest places. – Simon & Schuster
Title: The Paris Library
Author: Janet Skeslien Charles
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Historical fiction
Format: eARC from Netgalley
Pub date: February 2, 2021
Paris, 1939. Odile Souchet is obsessed with books and the Dewey Decimal System, which makes order out of chaos. She soon has it all – a handsome police officer beau, an English best friend, a beloved twin, and a job at the American Library in Paris, a thriving community of students, writers, diplomats, and book lovers. Yet when war is declared, there’s also a war on words.
Montana, 1983. Widowed and alone, Odile suffers the solitary confinement of small-town life. Though most adults are cowed by her, the neighbor girl will not let her be. Lily, a lonely teenager yearning to break free of Froid is obsessed by the older French woman who lives next door and wants to know her secrets.
As the two become friends, Odile sees herself in Lily – the same love of language, the same longings, the same lethal jealousy. The Paris Library’s dual narratives explore the relationships that make us who we are – family and friends, first loves and favorite authors – in the fairy tale setting of the City of Light. It also explores the geography of resentment, the consequences of unspeakable betrayal, and what happens when the people we count on for understanding and protection fail us.
The Paris Library was an outstanding book. I fell in love with every piece of it! I loved the characters, the setting, the drama, and all the love.
First off, the book is interesting because it not only shifts between characters but it also shifts between time. Some chapters are in WWII Paris and some are in 1980’s Montana. I loved it! The story was serious and kind of sad at times but there was sprinkled in humor too!
Odile is the main character. She is a strong young woman who works in the American Library in Paris. I enjoyed her absolute love for books and the library. Lily, is a young girl living in Montana next door to Odile as an old woman. Lily experiences loss and Odile ends up being the person that helps her through it. I really enjoyed the characters and how different but similar they were. I liked how the author flipped back and forth and intertwined the stories so it all fit together like a beautiful masterpiece.
When I put the book down I couldn’t help but reflect on my own life. It opened my eyes to things I’ve done and things I’ve overlooked because of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I feel that if a story makes you reflect so deeply it must be an amazing book written by an outstanding author. That is what this book was. It was amazing, heartfelt, full of despair and hope, eye opening, and thoughtful. I loved this book with all my heart as I knew I would when I read the synopsis originally. Odile and her friends are the type of people I wish I knew and aspire to be. This story reminded me that not everyone is as they seem and that people change and grow throughout their lives.
The setting of the American Library is the best. It felt like home and it was a home to the characters in the book. I loved that part. Every time the library is mentioned or Odile was working there it just felt so whimsical and full of wonder. It’s a place I would love to see. Something from a dream.
I have always been interested in history which is a reason I was excited for this book! I found the writing to be so good that when the first bombs were dropped and I was reading about the peoples fear and uncertainty, I too felt that way. My heart rate increased, I was holding onto every word, I could not stop reading. This story opened my eyes to the struggles of war. How people had to do things they didn’t want to or thought were wrong just so they could survive. How people turned on each other. How there was so much hidden racism and discrimination! Odile is such a hero throughout the book. Living during that time is unfathomable. Unreal.
Finally, this story is full of love and loss. Odile suffered much loss throughout her life and Lily is lucky to have such a role model. Lily suffered loss as well and in the end it was very heartwarming that they were able to help each other and have such a great relationship! I sure enjoyed the romance and true love expressed in this book. It filled my heart many times. This story is worth the read. It is really something special that I thoroughly enjoyed!
** Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review!
Do you like historical fiction? Chat with me in the comments!