Cover Image: The Paris Library

The Paris Library

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Member Reviews

I enjoyed this new take on the historical WWII drama. It was told  in such a way as to give a different perspective on this genre. I enjoyed learning about this library and it’s purpose 
thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me review this book
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Though I am starting to back off on historical novels set during WWII, I picked this book as it appeared to offer something different. The story has dual timelines with our protagonist, Odile (oh-da-lay’), heavily featured in both. During WWII, Odile works at the American Library in Paris (a real institution). The later timeline takes place in the mid to late 1980s in Montana. I enjoyed both timelines equally. The best feature of the WWII period is the library setting. I love the references to the Dewey decimal system and to specific books. Seeing the war from the perspective of the library and its patrons and employees is also fresh and enlightening. The Montana period is special because of the inclusion of young Lily and her role in helping Odile heal from her difficult life. In turn, Odile supports Lily as the latter struggles “to belong.”

The story focuses more on the characters than the war (OK with me) and showcases themes of  deep disappointment, loss, hope, healing, and the power of friendship. The author did a great deal of research for the book; make sure you read the author’s note at the end. One of the things I look most forward to in the WWII historical fiction novels is the Author’s Note. My only knock is that the end was rushed in my opinion. I would have liked “another 10%” to be devoted to Odile’s relationship with Buck and Marc and a bit more detail on Lily’s future. Back to the Author’s Note—it did serve as a great epilogue for some of the characters who we find out were actually real people. 

All in all, I very much enjoyed this novel and recommend it to all fans of historical fiction, especially those who like character-driven novels. 

Many thanks to Atria Books, through Net Galley and Janet Skeslien Charles, for the invitation to read an ARC of this novel. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
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My Thoughts: 
The first point I love about this story is usually when there is two different characters with two time periods, I have to guess how this story is going to intersect with the two characters, and why the two characters need one another. I was shown right away in 
The Paris Library the purpose of the two characters. This is a breath of fresh air in a stagnant pool of dual time periods of characters who go back and forth. I love that right from the beginning the two characters have purpose for the relationship. It's actually a lovely relationship of encouragement, comfort, companionship, and devotion. 
A second reason I love this story is Odile's personality. Odile is a young woman. Often young women are shown either extremely naïve or extremely independent. Odile is in the middle. She is a young woman with education and a career that gives her a bit of freedom and independence. She still lives at home and under her parent's rules. She also has little experience with romantic relationships. However, she is a careful person. She is observant and waits to make a decision. She does not immediately act on feelings. 
I love the conflict between the two women: Odile and Lily. Even the best of friends have misunderstandings and situations that require good communication. Their story is a teaching element for the book. 
I love how Skeslien weaved in several sub stories. For example: a romantic relationship with a German enemy. And, an older French woman's perspective on marriage.
I enjoyed reading the story of Odile more than Lily. Lily is a solid character, but I was drawn to Odile. 
I could go on and on about this story because it's wonderful!
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This was a sweeping historical fiction story that was both informative and engaging. I really enjoyed the story and character development, but I'm really sad that the publication of this book is being delayed so long.
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WWII-era historical fiction about a library in Paris? Yes, please!

Odile is a book lover who has just landed her dream job as a librarian at the American Library in Paris. She's also falling in love with a charming and handsome police officer. Life couldn't get much better than that, right? But it's 1939, and the Nazis are about to descend on Paris and change everything. Odile and her fellow librarians start out by sending books to Allied troops on the front lines. After Paris falls and the Nazis start banning certain groups of people from the library, Odile and the others start smuggling books to their newly-banned patrons.

Lily is a teenager in 1983 Montana who develops a close friendship with the now-elderly Odile. Lily struggles to come to terms with her mother's death, her new stepmother, and growing up.

The story of Odile and the library was intriguing and full of colorful characters. It's an aspect of WWII that is new to me. I really enjoyed learning about this form of resistance - not with guns, but with books. The war teaches Odile many valuable lessons that will stay with her for the rest of her life - the value of friendship, the importance of keeping secrets, and the ugliness that lies within all of us. The Odile sections of the book were, by far, my favorite.

The story of Lily and 1983 Odile, although well-written, was not nearly as interesting to me. It felt a bit like filler, with very little relevance to the more interesting story of WWII Odile. I'm really not sure why this storyline is even included in the book.

Thanks to NetGalley and Ataria Book for an advanced copy of this book.
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In The Paris Library, Odile has applied for her first library job with the American Library in Paris. It’s where she’s wanted to work forever. But in 1939, her father thinks she’s too independent.  He invites suitors for dinner every Sunday after Mass in hopes that she’ll find one acceptable to marry. Her father is insufferable not just to Odile, but to her brother, Remy, who is in law school and finds it soul-sucking. He wants to fight for the resistance or do something that matters to help Paris stave off Hitler.  


In Friod Montana, 1989, Lily lives with her dad and mom. It’s a small town where everyone knows everyone else. The town gossips incessantly about Lily’s neighbor who is French and never really fits in. Why is she in Montana? Lily desperately wants to know her story. But then tragedy hits. 


This is a story about unlikely friendships. It’s about the ruinations of jealousy. Words said that cannot be taken back, and the lengths people go to in order to survive heartache. Janet Skeslien Charles’ writing is wonderful. She draws in her readers with rich detail. The characters at the American Library in Paris are based on actual staff. She did her research and it truly shows how well rounded each one is. I found the story page-turning and the ending is really unexpected – just what was needed to tie it up.
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First - I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Paris Library! Odile is a character I could fall in love with and poor Lily, I can so relate to being her age and being terribly nosy about everything. Learning about The American Library during WWII was fascinating, as was learning about the volunteers and staff. 

There were a couple of instances where the story did not flow. For example, when Odile suddenly forgives Lily after the kitchen fire, it just seemed so unlikely as adamant as she was about ignoring Lily and not forgiving her. And the end! I wanted to know if she wrote to Margaret and if they at least patched things up enough where Odile could quit wearing the red belt. 

Overall though this was a fabulous historical fiction novel and I am grateful to have the opportunity to read it. The characters are believable, memorable and full of life. I especially liked the unintentional moral of not allowing jealousy and comparison to lead you down a road you don't want to take. A solid 4 out of 5 stars!
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I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher, for allowing me to read this wonderful story. It was a fresh take on WWII, telling the story of an American Library in Paris France, that stayed open during the war. This book is layered with both facts and fiction, providing us with a powerful story. I did not know about the Paris Library, until I read about it here. There are probably more stories of resilience and bravery during the war, that we all know nothing about. After reading this, I wanted to know more about the efforts of the Library and its patrons, as there were many. Fantastic historical read.
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The Paris Library invites us to venture back in time, alternating between 1939 and 1983, between Paris and Montana, through the lens of Odile and Lilly. 

Odile is a young woman living in Paris who loves books more than anything else and just got her dream job as a librarian in the American Library of Paris. Lily is a teenager from a small town in Montana who is trying to navigate the pitfalls of being an adolescent when her life got turned upside down. Both women have very different lives, come from very different times and backgrounds, but there's one thing that bonds them together.

Without revealing too much of the plot (yes, you'll have to find out what happens for yourself!), I want to say that The Paris Library exceeded my expectations. There was character development in big doses which is always refreshing to see. The pace was really good, the author skilfully alternated between times and characters without making you skip pages to find what happens next. 

Odile is smart, passionate, driven, loving and flawed - just like all of us. It was so nice to follow her journey of growth and witness her making mistakes but also learning. It's not every day where you'll find a flawed protagonist that you don't want to throw your book at! 

The novel had a bit of everything - portraying genuine human connection, emotions and feelings, friendship, love, and a dash of romance on the side.

If you're looking for a historical fiction with strong female characters to read - you should definitely check this one out. I'm sure you'll find at least one thing that would make you smile, laugh or cry. And hey, there's nothing wrong with showing human emotion! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

I have kindly received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and Atria Books in exchange of a fair review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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The American Library of Paris is the place of dreams for book lovers and creates the perfect backdrop of a young woman's coming of age story in occupied France. The Paris Library transports the reader from 1940's Paris as Odile's life unfolds from a young girl embarking on adulthood to 1980's Montana where Odile makes an unlikely friendship with young next door neighbor, Lily. As Lily undergoes her own life-altering changes,  she learns French from Odile, and many life lessons along the way. The relationship formed is as timeless as the story told. 

While there have been many novels written in occupied France and in rural towns of the USA, the author seamlessly volleys the reader back and forth through time and place. At times, it is easy to get lost in one young woman's' journey only to realize the author has whisked you back across the world to check in with the other.   Through this telling, reader sees the parallels of life's challenges no matter the location or the era. I highly recommend this novel for a book to get lost in, characters to fall in love with, and a story that will make you wonder how our lives interlace for generations to come.

The advanced reader copy of this publication was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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The Paris Library reminds us that morality isn’t always black and white, and that what we owe one another shouldn’t be shaken by a few missteps. The novel seamlessly transitions between two different nations at two very different times, and manages to show personal and societal grief with depth but without melodrama. The death of a mother, the loss of a brother, the evil hand of genocide, all are given equal gravity and the author manages to show how Hope grows in the cracks, beginning when we reach out to one another and rebuild a sense of community. I did feel that the ending of the book moved a bit too quickly, and there was a touch of “too perfect timing” when returning to the day Lily and Odile first meet. But overall I really enjoyed this novel especially in these tumultuous times of our own. And will carry one quotation with me for certain: “People are awkward, they don’t always know what to do or say. Don’t hold it against them. You never know what’s in their hearts.”
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Publication Date: June 2, 2020

Thank you to NetGalley and Laguna for this advanced reader's copy. In exchange, I am providing an honest review.

The American Library in Paris is one that serves both the French and Americans/British. It provides periodicals, fiction and non-fiction as well as community resources for those who find themselves living in the grand city of Paris. This title was inspired by the author's real work at the American Library several years ago. While there she heard of the librarians' efforts during WWII to keep hope and reading alive. Drawing from actual events and people she created a fictional story about one librarian in particular, Odile Souchet. 

It's 1939 in Paris and Odile Souchet has just landed her dream job. She's a librarian at the American Library. The library hosts the Dewey Decimal System of shelving and Odile is enamored with that system, so much so that she often translates what is happening around here into the Dewey place it would hold on a shelf. The library also hosts a colorful cast of characters, some French and some American/British. As Odile settles into the library and her tasks the Nazis are marching closer to France. Nobody thinks they will be able to take France but when they do Odile and her fellow librarians fight to keep hope alive through reading. 

It's 1983 in Froid, Montana and Lily is looking for things to do. A school report prompts her to knock on her elderly neighbor's door and approach Mrs. Gustafson about being interviewed for the report. Mrs. Gustafson agrees and so begins a friendship between a young teenager and an elderly transplant from France. As Lily gets to know Odile's story she senses there are parts being held back. Through the next several years Odile becomes a key person in Lily's life, helping to raise her, teaching her French, and providing stability in some turbulent times. 

The reader is taken back and forth between Paris, Montana and time to tell the story of Odile's life in Paris during WWII and how she got to Montana and eventually to 1983 when she and Lily become acquainted. As the story goes along a tension is definitely building toward the reveal of Odile's secret but when it comes I felt let down. In my opinion, it was rather anti-climatic. It also left me with more questions than a feeling of closure on Odile's story. And while it's true that not all stories get wrapped up with a nice bow this one felt incomplete to me as I read the last few words. I can't put my finger on what, but something is still missing from the story. Until the end, however, I enjoyed the read. I mean, I'm a total bookworm so I'm always going to have a fondness for reading about reading and libraries and bookstores and all things literary.
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As WWII approaches the author, Janet Skeslien Charles introduces us to the people working at the American Library in Paris. Mainly told to us by Odile a young woman seeking her first job. The book really shows the impact of war on ordinary people. We come to know Odile's coworkers and how the war impacts them and their passion for books and loyalty to the library. There is friendship, love and loss.
Fairly soon we are taken to the 1980's and introduced to Lily. We find that in the 80.s, Odile has moved to the United States and is Lily's neighbor. The story takes us from Lily's middle school years through high school. 
They form a friendship and Odile's story is unveiled through this friendship. 
It's well written and will be a favorite for book clubs. It has mystery, strong women, love and friendship in addition to learning about history.
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Great book that reminds us all why our job as Booksellers is important and essential!  HIstorical Fiction that has many relevant parallels to what is happening in 2020.  Great read with so many reminders of what books mean to so many people at all times of our lives.  Must read!
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This is a well written book that tells the story of Odile from two different places in her life. The mystery slowly unfolds of her time as a librarian at the American Library in Paris during World War II and then when she is an older woman living in Montana. The story is based on some real life heroes who fought to save books during WWII. I found it to be a very interesting book and was sucked right in to trying to solve the mystery of why Odile did not talk about her past.  Highly recommend this story that looks at a different side to WWII that we don't often hear about.
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Highly enjoyable historical fiction about the American Library of Paris during WWII. I really enjoyed Odile's story as a librarian during this period. I didn't feel like this was too heavy or dark. And although there was a romance between her and boyfriend it wasn't detailed and therefore I think appropriate for older YA. I believe I will recommend it to students coming back from college that enjoy adult historical fiction. 
There was another storyline between Odile and her teen neighbor in Montana in 1989.  I got a little bored with some of these parts and found I just wanted to get back to the past.  However as a story telling device it was effective in revealing some secrets. 
I will definitely purchase this for our library and recommend to 20 year old adults
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Anyone who thinks libraries are in danger of becoming obsolete or irrelevant needs to read this story of the staff of the American Library in Paris during the Occupation of Germany in World War II.  Librarians have a weird, true passion for stories, knowledge and information and go to great lengths to protect them and make sure these resources are available for all people all the time.  

Odile's side of the story tells of landing her dream job as a Librarian during the pre-war days.  Her father, who is a ranking police officer, and her twin brother, anxious to "do something worthwhile" are both worried about the impending war as much of Paris is in denial that it will ever reach the city.  Of course, Germany occupies the great city, shuttering businesses, taking over hotels, and ransacking museums and libraries in order to stamp out the cultures honored in them.  Odile -of true librarian heart- joins the resistance by carrying books to library subscribers who were no longer allowed or who were too scared to venture out of their homes to continue visiting the Library.  As she secrets books to these friends, her relationship with police officer Paul develops and grows as does her friendships with the other library staff members and volunteers.  Although Odile is successful in keeping books in people' hands, she fails many times in her relationships, and this where her path connects to teenager Lily in America.  

Odile escaped Paris and married a soldier from Montana.  She lived a quiet, nearly reclusive life until Lily asked for French lessons one day.  As both Lily and Odile's story are revealed, the reader can infer how alike the two are, and how Odile sees the mistakes Lily has made in her own relationships with family friends and the ones she is on the verge of making that mirror her own.  

If you are a librarian, you must definitely read this story.  The spirit and passion of librarians is inspiring.  I also thought the story was unique in how the parallel stories converge on the character similarities, with the older one trying to help the younger one not make the same painful mistakes instead of coming together in the form of an unknown shared relative that is typical of this genre.  It is a story of growth and perseverance and righting past wrongs and not making the same mistakes over and over.
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In my quest to read WWII-era books with perspectives that I have not read before, I was happy to read The Paris Library.

In 1939 Paris, the future looks bright for Odile Souchet. She has just been hired by the American Library in Paris and is now part of an exciting world of book lovers including librarians, writers, diplomats and intellectuals. But as the Nazis invade Paris, the world around her drastically changes. Not only are people being persecuted but there is a threat to her beloved library and its thousands of treasured books.

The story takes us to 1983 in Montana, a world far from Paris. Odile is now a lonely widow. She develops a close bond with Lily, a young teenager, who is facing many challenges including a dying mother. Lily is very smart and is intrigued by this mysterious old woman who is clearly hiding many secrets. Odile sees a lot of herself in Lily. Their relationship is endearing.

As much as this is a wartime tale, the elements of friendship, love and betrayal provide the main appeal.

While the story of Odile is fiction, many of the colorful characters from the American Library were real and exhibited great heroism in the face of the enemy showing their love for books. They managed to keep the Library open during the war and fearlessly brought books to Jewish members after the Nazis banned them from using the library.

The Paris Library was a little slow starting but the pace picked up providing an interesting and worthwhile read.

Many thanks to Atria Books, NetGalley and the author for an advance copy.  A review will be posted on my blog closer to publication.
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I did not enjoy this chirpy little book, although it apparently enchanted many others. It's a dual story. First in 1939, there is the young Parisian Odile, who becomes a librarian at the American library. In 1983, a young preteen, Lily is struggling with her mother's decline in health in a small Montana town. This is the same town where the cosmopolitan Odile now lives. There is the romance and budding career of Odile against a background of WWII. There is the obsession of Lily with the mysterious widowed Odile in 1983. I thought both stories were somewhat flat and predictable. The constant injection of Dewey call numbers in the beginning was initially cute, then annoying. Read about one third then skimmed the rest. That said I think the audience for this title will skew towards younger readers identifying with Lily's tale.
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Anything that has to do with Paris I have to pick up! But this book kept me interested! I never knew about these important people keeping the library open during ww2. And how they put their lives at risk for their Jewish patrons. I loved the characters and this heart warming story. So important! A must read. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity!!
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