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Book Review: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

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For me, The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles, was a special treat that was totally unexpected.

Sort of like a surprise birthday or holiday gift that I wasn’t expecting.

Published February 9, 2021, this book wasn’t even on my radar until about 6 months later, when I first noticed it.  I then had it checked out of the library twice before I finally had time to read it.  So, yeah, I dishonored this book a bit by continually pushing it to the bottom of my To Be Read list.

And what a mistake!

Review of The Paris Library

Have you seen The Paris Library online or in your local bookstore or library yet?

Why did I decide to read The Paris Library?

What attracted me to this book first was the word Paris in the title.  Because, well….Paris!

And beyond that?  The word library gets me every time!

So, a combination of both words, as in “The Paris Library” means this was an automatic read for me.

But why did I wait so long to read it?

I don’t know….I might have just had too many other important books waiting for me every time I had access to this book.  So just a timing issue.

But what a treasure this book is.

The Paris Library is based on the true story of the heroic librarians at The American Library in Paris during WWII.

This was in part a learning experience for me, as I didn’t know anything about The American Library in Paris, or what role its librarians played during WWII.  Learning about this was fascinating for me, and may well be for you too!

Synopsis of The Paris Library

Paris, 1939: A young Odile Souchet has what seems to be a pretty nice life. Living with her family, thrilled to have gotten what to her is a dream job at The American Library in Paris, Odile’s future seems bright. Until the Nazis march into Paris and suddenly, her entire existence seems to be in jeapordy. But Odile steps up, joining the Resistance to fight for what she believes is right, using her beloved books as her most important weapon.

Montana, 1983: Small-town Montana doesn’t offer much in the form of excitement for a lonely teenager named Lily. But she finds friendship and comfort in the form of an elderly next door neighber named Odile. And while Odile introduces Lily to the thrill of learning another language, Lily begins to realize that Odile has a mysterious past that she has kept hidden for decades.

With the dual timeframe of Paris starting in 1939 and Montana in 1983, this book seamlessly weaves together both historical and contemporary fiction with a mix of characters from both eras. A wonderful blend of history, mystery, family and love makes for a page-turner that will keep you completely immersed in the story until the very end.

Exactly Who Is The Paris Library For?

  • This book is a treasure for anyone who has had a love of libraries since childhood.
  • This book is a treasure for anyone who feels a sense of comfort while they’re in the library.
  • This book is a treasure for anyone who feels a sense of wonder at being in the library.

If you fall into any of those categories, then this book is definitely for you. In fact, it’s probably a perfect fit if you’re in the mood to explore historical fiction today.

Based on a little-known corner of history and actual characters that existed there at that time, The Paris Library inspires you to seek out the comfort of libraries and books.

The Paris Library – What I Liked

First of all, I felt an instant connection with the characters, whom I liked immensely.

The story is written in a dual time frame, and dual-time frame books are among my favorite. The historical part of it starts in 1939 in Paris. The contemporary part is in 1983 Montana. The author flips back and forth between the two, but not so often that it becomes distracting or causes confusion with what’s happening in the book.

I loved that I was able to learn something new about a specific time in history that I actually read about often – WWII Paris. I, personally, always feel somehow more fulfilled when I come away from a good book not just having enjoyed it, but also actually learning something new about a time or place in history.

Here’s something cool – The American Library in Paris still exists and you can visit it the next time you find yourself in Paris. I certainly intend to!

And finally, this book reminded me of how important books are to me. And everything to do with books. Like the library! It reminded me of the love affair that I’ve had with books ever since I was a small child.

The Paris Library – What I Didn’t Like

There was absolutely nothing in this book that I didn’t like.

The Paris Library – Read, Reread Or Reconsider?

And now for my 3 R’s of book reviews. Read, Reread, or Reconsider?

What is my opinion of The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles?

A definite READ.

The last novel written by Janet Skeslien Charles was way back in 2009. I sure hope she has more great historical fiction books like this one in store for us in the future.

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