Book Review: The Paris Library
It’s 1939 and Odile Souchet just accepted her dream job at the American Library in Paris, despite her family’s desire for her to stay home and get married. Shortly after, the Nazis invade France and Paris becomes an occupied city. Odile and her fellow librarians struggle to stay open, to serve the community, and to fight the best way know how – by providing books to anyone who wishes. The librarians ship boxes of books to soldiers overseas; they risk their lives to deliver books to Jewish subscribers who are prohibited from entering the library. Odile does all of this, while also falling in love with a young police officer.
On the flip side, it’s 1983 in a small town in Montana. Lily is a lonely teenager who lost her mother. Intrigued by her mysterious French neighbor, Odile, Lily is determined to learn her secrets. Over the years, Lily and Odile develop a deep friendship. Odile becomes Lily’s French teacher, confidant, and in some ways, the mother she lost.
Between the two storylines, Odile’s story unfolds.
The Paris Library started off a bit slow for me, but once I found the time to settle down and read in quiet, I really got into it.
There’s so much to say about this novel. I enjoyed the historical aspects – the book told the true story of the American Library in Paris during WWII, and of the staff’s courage and strength, standing up for what they believed in, defying Nazi authority in their own quiet way. The novel also provided insight into French society during the occupation – from the “crow letters” where people ratted out their neighbors to the French women who got involved with Nazis during the war.
The characters were well-developed and showed good evolution. I couldn’t help but feel for the characters as they faced difficult decisions and the consequences of those decisions. This was most apparent with the protagonist, Odile. In her youth, she seemed a bit naïve, but she really took the lessons that she learned to heart and grew from them.
The Paris Library is a good read as a historical fiction book, but it will also appeal to book lovers, as the characters’ love of books was very apparent in the quotes used throughout the book, the frequent references to the Dewey decimal system, and the tendency of characters to recommend books to others to help them cope with life.
Have you read The Paris Library? What did you think? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Enjoy this review and interested in more WWII-era historical fiction novels?
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