The Paris Library: A Book Review

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Add The Paris Library to your summer reading list. Any fan of historical fiction, or any book lover in general, will love this book! 

Coming out in June of 2020, The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles is an engaging tale that is narrated on dual timelines and is sure to become a best seller. A book lover’s delight, I could not help but think about Susan Orlean’s The Library Book as I was reading.  I was provided an ARC via NetGalley and Atria Books in exchange for a fair and honest review, and I am strongly recommending this book.

Navigating dual timelines, the author weaves an engaging plot between two characters, Odile and Lily. Set in both WWII Paris and 1980s Froid, Montana, we are drawn into both their stories knowing they will soon combine, and they do in a beautiful way.

As the book opens, a young Odile begins a new job as a librarian at The American Library in Paris at the onset of WWII, and her narrative is peppered with Dewey Decimal references which could have been very odd and distracting but is in fact absolutely charming. As the employees of the library work to protect their books, and themselves, during the Nazi occupation of Paris, it is interesting to note that many of the characters in this novel are real people and many of the events also all too real.

The author has drawn from the papers of Dorothy Reeder who served as the director of The American Library in Paris during World War II. At the end of the novel, Ms. Charles brings us up to date with what happened to the characters in real life after the war.

Perhaps because of the fact that many of the characters were real people, their story line in the novel is the more engaging and developed one, but the contemporary story line of Odile is still deftly drawn and merges beautifully with Lily’s in 1980s Froid, Montana, where Odile is considered “the war bride,” and an eccentric, odd sort of person. I won’t give any spoilers here, but the ending of the book is absolutely perfect and a very satisfying ending.

This is the kind of book you can get lost in for a few hours, or wade leisurely through over a couple of days. Either way I highly recommend The Paris Library. Mark your calendar for June 2020.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

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