by Janet Skeslien Charles
Narrator: Nicky Diss, Sarah Feathers, Esther Wane
Length: 11 hours and 53 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
Narration: 4 cups Speed: 1.3x
Based on the true World War II story of the American Library in Paris, an unforgettable novel about the power of books and the bonds of friendship—and the ordinary heroes who can be found in the most perilous times and the quietest places.
Young, ambitious, and tempestuous, Odile Souchet has it all: Paul, her handsome police officer beau; Margaret, her best friend from England; Remy, her twin brother who she adores; and a dream job at the American Library in Paris, working alongside the library’s legendary director, Dorothy Reeder. When World War II breaks out, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear—including her beloved library. After the Nazi army marches into the City of Light and declares a war on words, Odile and her fellow librarians join the Resistance with the best weapons they have: books. Again and again, they risk their lives to help their fellow Jewish readers, but by war’s end, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.
Odile’s solitary existence in gossipy small-town Montana is unexpectedly interrupted by her neighbor Lily, a lonely teenager craving adventure. As Lily uncovers more about Odile’s mysterious past, they find they share not only a love of language but also the same lethal jealousy. Odile helps Lily navigate the troubled waters of adolescence by always recommending the right book at the right time, never suspecting that Lily will be the one to help her reckon with her own terrible secret.
A story with a library, set in WWII and in Paris? That was all I needed, I didn’t even read the synopsis for The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles. Imagine my surprise when parts of the book take place in Montana! A beautiful story of love, loss and books.
Paris, 1939 World War II is underway, and Odile Souchet has just landed her dream job at the American Library in Paris, working alongside the library’s legendary director, Dorothy Reeder. Before long she has a best friend and a handsome police officer for a boyfriend. But then her brother joins the war, and the Nazi’s invade Paris. This was a riveting story from the library’s efforts to send books to the troops, to getting books to Paris Jews who are no longer permitted within its walls. Betrayal, loss, and Odile’s attempt to protect others held me captive.
It was fascinating to learn how she ended up in Montana. I wept for Odile.
Montana, 1983 Odile lives alone in a small-Montana town when her life is interrupted by her teenage neighbor Lily. Odile is there through the dark times for Lily, and the two strike up a friendship. I liked Lily and her coming of age story. It was interesting to see growth from both as they admitted mistakes, learned, healed and grew. Their story is one of kindred spirits, confessions, compassion, friendship and understanding.
Charles did a wonderful job of weaving both stories and showing the parallel between the two protagonists, even though their lives were very different. I think we can all relate to both and their passion for books endeared them to me.
The tale was narrated by Nicky Diss, Sarah Feathers, and Esther Wane. Mostly, I enjoyed the audio and liked that key characters had their own narrator as we switched between the two timelines. Odile’s narration in Paris had some issues that annoyed me. I could hear swallowing and intake of breathes. Her voice seemed wet and I am not sure if it was the accent she developed for Odile or if this was a production/editing issue.
Don’t miss the fascinating chat with the author at the end. She shares the history of the American Library. You’ll want to add it to your travel bucket list.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Glad you enjoyed this one, K! I think it has been a couple of years since I read a book about WWII. I find them really heartbreaking in general.
Having two parts, the WWII one and the 1980s is something that puts me off this book. I would have loved to read it, if it was only about the life in Paris during the war. Nevertheless, it’s good to know about it.
I really liked this book but it would have been much better without the 1980s sections, in my opinion. The WWII parts were good enough.
i can understand that. It would have worked either way.
This sounds terrific. I love what the library was doing back during the war. Curious how she ended up in MT.
Nadz@Totally Addicted to Reading
I can see why you enjoyed this one. Great review, Kim.
Debbie S Haupt
Oh yes please WWII Paris to 1980s Montana and i love uncovering the past through these kinds of stories.
just those keywords: library, WWII, and Paris makes this an insta-read! The two timelines makes this an even more interesting read. I absolutely enjoy books that seamlessly connect two time periods with two different characters.
This sure sounds like a really interesting read, and I love your review! Hope you’re doing well! Hugs, RO
Oh I always like books like that too!