Wednesday 24 February 2021

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles @skesliencharles #TheParisLibrary @TwoRoadsBooks #BookReview #WW2Fiction


PARIS, 1939
Odile Souchet is obsessed with books, and her new job at the American Library in Paris - with its thriving community of students, writers and book lovers - is a dream come true. When war is declared, the Library is determined to remain open. But then the Nazis invade Paris, and everything changes.
In Occupied Paris, choices as black and white as the words on a page become a murky shade of grey - choices that will put many on the wrong side of history, and the consequences of which will echo for decades to come.

Lily is a lonely teenage desperate to escape small-town Montana. She grows close to her neighbour Odile, discovering they share the same love of language, the same longings. But as Lily uncovers more about Odile's mysterious past, she discovers a dark secret, closely guarded and long hidden.

Based on the true Second World War story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable novel of romance, friendship, family, and of heroism found in the quietest of places.

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles was published on 9 February 2021 by Two Roads. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This review was originally published in S Magazine

Based on the true accounts of the librarians of the American Library in Paris during the Second World War, this is a novel that celebrates books, libraries and the power of reading.

Teenage Lily lives in a small Montana town during the 1980s. Her neighbour, Odile,  is known locally as ‘the war-bride’. As Lily’s family life becomes more difficult, she seeks refuge in Odile’s house. Lily and Odile form a wonderful friendship and Lily discovers so much about Odile’s life during the war, and how she came to live in the US.

In 1939, young Odile secures her dream job at the American Library in Paris. Odile is a disappointment to her parents who just wish that she’d find a wealthy man to marry. When the Nazis invade Paris, the staff, volunteers and books at the Library are under threat. Odile and her colleagues face dangers that they could never have imagined, yet they are determined that they will continue to spread joy through books, no matter how dangerous that is. 

The author’s experiences of working at the American Library in Paris shine through in this delightful richly detailed novel. She has created a world filled with characters, some based on real people, who are an absolute joy to follow. From the atrocities carried out by the Nazis, to the fearless acts of bravery and courage shown by ordinary people, this is an irresistible and utterly compelling novel that will appeal to bibliophiles, and lovers of intricate historical fiction. 

Janet Skeslien Charles is the award-winning author of Moonlight in Odessa and The Paris Library.
Her shorter work has appeared in revues such as Slice and Montana Noir. 

She learned about the history of the American Library in Paris while working there as the programs manager. 

She divides her time between Montana and Paris.

Author Page on Facebook

Twitter @skesliencharles

Instagram @jskesliencharles

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