Friday 12 February 2021

Book Review: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

The Paris Library Blog Tour Graphic

AD* | 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.

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 neighbour. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbour’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 favourite authors - The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places. 

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles Book Cover

If you love books about books, The Paris Library is the perfect story for you!

Set primarily in the American Library in Paris during World War Two, this is a sweeping tale of love, loss, and the healing power of books. It's a gorgeous story with plenty of heart and honesty. What's even more impressive is that it is based on a true story. It's always astonishing to read about the incredible bravery of ordinary people who all pulled together during the horrors of the war. 

The main character is Odile, a young Parisienne on the cusp of a brand new life working in the American Library. Odile loves nothing more than books, and she soon makes firm friends with colleagues and library subscribers alike. However, when war breaks out, Odile's world is turned upside down and like so many others, she must endure terrible hardships. 

Fast forward roughly fifty years, and American teenager Lily is struggling to make sense of her life, her family, and her friends. When she begins chatting with her elegant yet enigmatic elderly neighbour, Lily's life changes forever. 

The narrative takes turns switching between the two timelines throughout the book. Each chapter is set in either wartime Paris or 1980s Montana, and while the two are literally worlds apart, there are still striking similarities. From attitudes towards the Cold War to the bitterness of jealousy and betrayal, these common threads weave through both storylines. Also present throughout are the themes of love and loss - and, of course, plenty of books and bookish references! 

This is a beautifully written story and a well-researched insight into the lives of the courageous librarians who worked tirelessly to deliver books to those in need during the war.

Rating: 4 stars

The Paris Library is available to buy now. 

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below! 

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