Review: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 5 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

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.

Bookbub | Goodreads

My Thoughts:

Just when I thought I might be done with the WWII historical fiction, I picked up The Paris Library.

The story is inspiring. The thought of enduring the war and occupation is valiant enough, but to quietly disregard restrictions, be part of the underground resistance and make a difference is heroic. The author’s research is evident, and it is perfectly blended into this work of fiction. While the start is a little slow, overall the book is very good. The story is told in a dual timeline and by multiple narrators. It highlights all the fears people held during the occupation, but it does so in a “WWII Lite” way.

I loved the characters. Odile makes so many mistakes– to the point that some might think her an unlikable character. However, her mistakes mostly involve shades of grey, and she learns from each of them and punishes herself for all of them. In fact, most of the characters are flawed in some way, however, by the end of the book, readers learn of their struggles, qualities or actions that redeem them.

In present day, Lily, who lives next door to Odile, has lost her mother and must endure her father moving on. She is forced to accept not only a step-mother but also to help care for her half-siblings. It is through Lily’s friendship with Odile that we learn of both their struggles. Their symbiotic relationship provides each of them with things missing in their lives. They enrich one another’s lives.

The Paris Library is a beautiful story of choices, consequences, family, and friends. It is about loss, betrayal, and standing up for yourself and others.

About the Author: Janet Skeslien Charles divides her time between Paris and Montana. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with family.

The backdrop of her debut novel MOONLIGHT IN ODESSA is the booming business of email-order brides, an industry where love and marriage meet sex and commerce.

Her second novel THE PARIS LIBRARY is based on the true story of the courageous librarians at the American Library in Paris during World War II. Janet learned about the story when she worked at the Library.

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