The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles #TuesdayBookBlog #WartimeHistory

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 teenager 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.

My Review

This tantalising title and intriguing book cover does not disappoint. If you love books then you will understand Odile’s excitement when she is offered a job at the famous American Library in Paris. Only the date 1939 forewarns the reader that all will not be well. Odile is close to her twin brother Remy, but living at home can be annoying when her father, a police commander, brings home junior policemen as possible suitors for his daughter.

The rich, detailed description of the other members of staff in the Library (many real people who worked there during World War Two) made me long to curl up with a book there, observe the arrival of the subscribers and see Bitsi entertaining the children at Story Hour. But of course there are more serious events occurring too. When the Nazis arrive, the library is threatened with closure and certain individuals are no longer allowed to use its facilities. Soon Odile and her colleagues are walking around the city, avoiding checkpoints, to deliver books to their Jewish friends.

So why do we find Odile in 1983 living in Montana? Ignored by most people in the small town, widow Odile becomes friends with lonely teenage neighbour, Lily whose mother has died. Lily enjoys learning French but Odile also teaches her life lessons. Yet Odile is concealing secrets from her past. Gradually moving back and forward in time we discover more about the complexity of Odile’s life in Paris, while Lily makes mistakes which push the friends apart.

I much preferred the chapters based in Paris and it made me more aware of the suffering of a cosmopolitan city under occupation. The misunderstandings between friends and relations is understandable and you fear for the consequences. It is also interesting to observe the American family coming to terms with remarriage where no-one is bad or unkind but relationships are difficult. A thought-provoking novel, well worth reading.

The Paris Library on Amazon UK

Janet Skeslien Charles

Janet Skeslien Charles grew up on the plains of Montana. She spent two years in Odessa, Ukraine, as a Soros Teaching Fellow. She taught English, French, and Creative writing for fifteen years, first in Ukraine, then in Montana, and finally in France.

She is the award winning author of Moonlight in Odessa which was published in 10 languages. The Paris Library was inspired by her personal experience working as programs manager at the American Library in Paris.


Published by lizannelloyd

Love history, reading, researching and writing. Articles published in My Family History and other genealogy magazines.

4 thoughts on “The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles #TuesdayBookBlog #WartimeHistory

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