If you love books and libraries – you need to read The Paris Library, a new historical fiction novel by Janet Skeslien Charles! I have read so many great WWII novels and sometimes wonder if anyone can write something that doesn’t just copy those other stories. I’m happy to say that this book dealt with that era from a different perspective than others, so it isn’t just a ‘copy’ of previous books. The American Library in Paris serves as the backdrop for Ms. Charles’ characters (many of them are patrons of the library) and their stories.
There is a dual timeline in this novel: Paris, France during WWII and small-town Montana in the 1980’s. Odile Souchet is a young, French woman who escapes her domineering father through the books she loves to read. Her dreams come true when she is hired at the American Library in Paris in 1939. Here, she makes many new friends and learns much about life. Odile is also a main character in the 1980’s chapters, as the widowed neighbor of Lily, a teenage girl who has her own growing-up struggles. Odile and Lily develop a connection and help each other to open up about their secrets.
I think my favorite thing about this book was that every character made mistakes . . . but those mistakes just made them more realistic and touching. There are so many times in the novel where the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ choices aren’t always that simple. It is a book that had me thinking about the characters long after I finished reading. The writing was wonderful, the characters came alive to me and the conflicts kept me from putting the book down! The Paris Library was a terrific, beautifully written novel:)
Here’s an article about the American Library in Paris, including pictures of Miss Reeder and Boris, who were characters in the novel:
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