Once again I find myself transported back to World War II, this time in Paris. The last read was Simon Scarrow’s Blackout in wartime Berlin. Strange as I am not consciously picking wartime novels based on fact! The Paris Library is founded on the contribution the American Library in Paris made to the lives of Parisians and soldiers. The novel has two time-frames wartime and the 1980s. Odile is the main character in the wartime story. Whereas Lily features in the 1980s aspect (now located in the US) Odile is her next-door neighbour. How does Odile’s wartime experiences shape Lily’s future?
The motto of the Library is “After the Darkness of War, the Light of Books. This story is really focused on the effect books has on people’s lives. Although there is much tragedy in the book, the story is uplifting and reinforces the love of books. The Paris Library explores the effect of resentment, the consequences of choices made, and how heroism can be found in the quietest of locations.
The Paris Library Storyline
Amazon summaries the book with …
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.
There is romance, the horrors of war, the Nazi intolerance against Jews, and the unashamed love of books. The research is outstanding and the heroism of Dorothy Reeder (the Directrice) is extolled. Reeder organized the American Library’s Soldiers’ Service, which sent over 100,000 books to British and French soldiers by the end of June 1940. The Soldiers’ Service was discontinued as German occupation of Paris loomed, and Reeder urged her staff to leave the city. But Reeder remained in Paris, overseeing the Library. We also learn about crow letters – where neighbours, friends and even family renege on friends. Highly recommended and sure to be a staple of Book Clubs around the world!
Final Thought: Reading books – has it changed your life?