BOOK REVIEW : THE PARIS LIBRARY BY JANET SKESLIEN CHARLES
TITLE : The Paris Library
AUTHOR : Janet Skeslien Charles
GENRE : Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction
FR RATING : ⭐⭐⭐⭐( 4 Stars)
DATE OF PUBLISHING : February 2nd 2021
DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley and Simon And Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Paris Library is a historical fiction based on the true story of brave librarians during WW2. The book follows two main POVs, one of Odile, who used to be a librarian at the American Library in Paris, and Lily, who is a teenager in Froid, Montana. Odile was happy getting her dream job and spending her time in the library helping people with book recommendations. Her life was almost perfect with a handsome police officer beau, a best friend who shared her love for reading. Then war comes calling, and everything perfect falls into despair. Her stable life gets swiped from under her leaving her disconcerted. With Jews getting discriminated against and loved ones going to fight against Germans, Odile and her loved ones try to find stability in things they love. Odile spends most of her time at the library, helping out and sending books to soldiers and their Jewish readers, at times risking imprisonment. Now, as a widow and alone at Froid, she finds herself being a mentor to the teenager Lily. Odile can relate to Lily and see herself in the young girl. Odile helps Lily deal with difficulties that arise in her life and often guiding her by instilling a deep love for literature and French and all things Paris.
The story is slow-paced, with the dual narratives shifting between the past and the present. The book, for the most part, talks about the love for books, libraries, reading, and literature, and I loved it. The unforgotten history of heroic librarians helping out the Jewish readers rising their lives was also fascinating to learn. I also enjoyed the camaraderie between the library regulars, and their interactions were entertaining. The reality of war and how it affects humanity was astounding to see. We get to see the worst and the best of humanity in the novel. I loved how the librarians did their own form of resistance against the Nazis by bringing books to their Jewish subscribers who got banned from entering the libraries. I found the real-life characters brought to life through this fiction were quite enlightening and inspiring in their bravery that we rarely hear about.
The characters were, as I mentioned inspiring in many ways. Odile and Lily are not necessarily perfect characters, but their flaws and imperfections, along with their sincere love, and loyalty, will help us understand them. With the two of them forming a strong bond, they heal each other without even realizing it. I love how their relationship provides Lily with guidance, love, and unconditional support. Odile and her passion for literature help in healing the unseen wounds that festered inside of Lily. Odile’s tendency to let anger rule her is what marks the decline of her relationships with the loved ones. While she found herself late in atoning for her mistakes, she recognizes herself in Lily and stops her from making similar unforgivable mistakes.
The Paris Library will make you fall in love with Paris and literature effortlessly. The sheer number of books and the importance of these books mentioned in this novel is spectacular. I loved all the book recommendations that came with this novel. You will also find that you relate to a lot of the quotes in this book and the emotions it brings forward. Once you read the book, you will know what I mean.
Overall this was a good book that you will want to take your time while reading it. It’s wonderfully written and is well-researched with little-known historical elements presented in a beautiful package. I loved this book and the overall emotion it gave me. I gave the book 4 stars, and I highly recommend checking this book out. If you love slow-paced, historical fiction with WW2 stories that will appeal to the book lover in you, make sure to check this book out.
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 wit, empathy, and deep research that brings The Paris Library to life also brings to light a cast of lively historical characters and a little-known chapter of World War II history: the story of the American librarian, Miss Reeder, who created the Soldiers’ Service to deliver books to servicemen, and who later faced the Nazi ‘Book Protector’ in order to keep her library open. She and her colleagues defied the Bibliotheksschutz by delivering books to Jewish readers after they were forbidden from entering the library.