I read The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles at the request of the publisher, Atria Books, a branch of Simon and Schuster, in exchange for an honest review. Based on the true story of several librarians at the American Library in Paris, it tells the fictional story of Odile Souchet, a young woman who, against her father’s wishes, takes a job as a librarian.
The librarians participated in the French Resistance in ways I never realized. Against the “rules” of the German occupiers, they smuggled books to Jewish people who were no longer allowed to enter the library. They also smuggled books to Allies who had been taken as prisoners of war, and protected valuable documents and rare books from being destroyed.
Although harassed and threatened by the Gestapo, the head librarian, Dorothy Reeder, an American ex-pat, was determined to keep the library open to the public, despite the Germans’ threats. At the end of the book, information is provided on what happened to Ms. Reeder, and the other real librarians after the war, and how they carried on their work. On the author’s website (click the link above) you will find Ms. Reeder’s full confidential report, and additional information on the other librarians.
The story follows Odile, who married an American serviceman after the war, and moved to the small town of Froid, Montana, and is told in alternating time frames of Odile’s life in Paris, and her time as a widow in Montana.
As Odile discussed books with the other characters, I was reminded of many books I have always wanted to read, but somehow never found the time. She gave me a list of books to seek out for my own reading pleasure and education.
The Paris Library, is an important book for history lovers and book lovers alike. It certainly added to my understanding of the personal experiences of everyday people when war arrives on their doorsteps. There are some atrocities described, but not graphically. There is love, betrayal, friendship, family, teenage angst, and lots of history. This is another book you have to read.
What made The Grumpy Book Reviewer grumpy?
Very little: one redundancy, a few missing commas, and a few split infinitives.