Cover Image: The Paris Library

The Paris Library

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Member Reviews

I thoroughly enjoy historical fiction and was thrilled to get the approval for this book. The premise for this story and what it was based on was very intriguing but some parts of the book were too slow moving.  The beginning with the character development and movement in the story was strong but mid - way started to be less engaging.  I almost put down the book at least once in the middle.  I stuck it out and finished the book and I am glad that I did. I think there was appropriate closure with hearing what happened to all the characters as well as the two intertwined stories.  Overall I feel this was a good book but would most likely not recommend this as their first taste of historical fiction.
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This is a lovely novel told in a dual format
set in 1939 Paris and 1980’s Montana. There is  Odelie a former French librarian and her neighbor, pre-teen Lily. From the author’s notes I learned that many of the characters and events were authentic.
The early story is about the ALP or the American library of Paris and how the librarians, staff and citizens helped to deliver books to those who have been banned because of race, religion or heritage. The later timeline 1983 Montana is where we find Odelie and Lily. It is a heartwarming story of a blossoming friendship despite their age difference.
Extensive research and an enjoyable writing style made this an informative, thoughtful read. Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author for the ARC.
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Starting by thanking Netgalley and Atria Books the opportunity the review this book. I will give it my honest opinion.

I loved the story and fell in love with the story. Though it is a historical fiction, it is based from true facts and events. It is a dual time lime, Paris 1939 and Montana 1983.

Odile, 1939 a lady, in her 20's, working in an American Library. Starting before the Nazi's take over their area and all are allowed to borrow books. A group of women are encouraging all to read. AS time passes of course the Jewish are banned from doing such, but these ladies do what they can to keep all reading. You go through the time with her there and all she does, most good, some not so good.

Montana 1989 Lily, a teen, is living her life as a typical teen. She's very curious about her neighbor, Odile, and decides to make her a school project because she is so curious why her neighbor is so quiet.

The two become close as Odile is giving Lily her past taking you through the years she was in Paris and the events that happen her time there. There are times the Lily does push her limits with Odile.

The ending was an ending I was not exactly expecting.

There are French words in there, I took French in high school, I was able to pronounce them, some people may not.

Reasons I gave it 4 stars instead of 5. There were slow sections that Odile had, that I felt weren't needed. The book seemed like it could still be as good with some of it left out. During Lily's time it was a bit YA even with her being a teen, I just felt it was too YA.
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This is a beautiful, yet heartbreaking story.  I've been reading several WWII novels lately and the Paris Library has easily become one of my favorites.  The development of the characters and dual timelines made this to be a capturing read.  I also really appreciated the author's notes, as it helps you identify that the characters in this book are real people and the story is based on real life events.

Highly recommend!
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Love. Love. Love.  The dual perspective, the characters, the story. I absolutely loved every page.  It is heartbreaking and fascinating at the same time to see Odile's life unfold and intertwine with Lily's own heartbreaking story.
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“After the darkness of war, the light of books.”  What a beautiful motto that applies to every part of life and especially this novel.  Thank you NetGalley, Janet Skeslien Charles and Atria Books for my Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an impartial review. This historical fiction is based out of the real American Library in Paris with a trove of characters you will not quickly forget. Author Charles does a wonderful job faceting the everyday with the complex.  There is no perfect character each having their own flaws and making mistakes but yet we still love and cherish them.

Readers and library lovers will fawn over the ideals and hope that books can give in such a dark time while at the same time historians will search and find meaning and detail interweaved throughout. Although I had read about Nazi occupied Paris in history books, this accounting made it so personal and turned so many issues into a grey-zone. Nothing but print was black and white making relationships and everyday life a murky middle. I appreciated the author putting her characters in difficult moral decisions and not always making the correct choice.  

We find out quickly that the French woman next door to the teen girl in Montana is the same young French girl applying for the open librarian position.  Although many authors use this technique, I thought it was appropriate and needed here to link the past to present.  While the book began as hopeful with books/knowledge always being the forefront, we know how ugly history turned out in WWII France for the "undesirables". It was an uplifting and inspiring story of librarians doing what they could as resistors of the war to help not only Allied soldiers but the Jewish people who were condemned for their birth.  I did find myself slowing down towards the end because the content became heavier, and I needed more time for it to sink in and my brain and heart to absorb.  

Although historical fiction fans will rave over this novel, I believe all book lovers will too because the written word is really the shining star.  For audiobook listeners, the trio of narrators did a fabulous job with each character.
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Book lovers and historical fiction fans unite in a book that celebrates libraries, books, relationships, and hope. This novel is based on real people that risked their own lives to keep the American Library in Paris open during WWII. These librarians and volunteers made sure books were still in the hands of readers no matter what.

"The library was more than bricks and books; its mortar was people who cared…The library felt like home." Odile – THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien Charles

Odile, a librarian in the American Library in Paris, begins her story in 1933 and takes us through the war in Paris to September 1944. Other chapters focus on a new character, Lily in 1983, in Montana. Lily is Odile’s teenage neighbor. As their lives intersect, more of Odile’s story is shared along with Lily’s and we learn more about these two characters and how necessary they are to each other.

"But seriously, why books. Because no other thing possesses that mystical faculty to make people see with other people’s eyes. The Library is a bridge of books between cultures." Odile – THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien Charles

I fell in love with this story from nearly the first page. I shed tears of grief and tears of joy. I nervously trembled in fear and let out my breath when the characters were safe on the next page. I connected with the characters and reminisced over my own childhood and adult library experiences. When one of my own favorite books was quoted, THE LONG WINTER or THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, I longed to read the stories again.

"Libraries are lungs…Books the fresh air breathed in to keep the heart beating, to keep the brain imagining, to keep hope alive." Miss Reeder – THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien Charles

Since you realize, early on that Odile eventually ended up in Montana, a place so far removed from her life in Paris, there is a mystery that builds until nearly the end of how this happened. I empathized with Odile’s loneliness and was joyous over her relationship with Lily. When a betrayal affects that relationship, I ached for their friendship on the pages.

"Of course, he knew something was wrong, he was a librarian—part psychologist, bartender, bouncer, and detective." Odile – THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien Charles

The author places readers in the heart of the American Library in Paris, into the minds of the characters, and allows you to feel right along with their passions. Her attention to detail was just the right amount. I never felt overwhelmed or confused by the narrative of the story or the characters' reactions. It was a story I didn’t want to end.

"What you did was amazing. You gave subscribers hope. You showed that during the worst of times, people were still good. You saved books and people. You risked your life to defy the fricking Nazis. That’s huge." Lily – THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien Charles

Even though this story is set during WWII, it’s a different type of story that offers a much different perspective than I’ve ever read during this time. As a reader, you know the horrors that are happening both inside and outside of Paris, but, instead, in this story, we are exposed to a different type of resistance, heroes that were willing to put themselves at risk just to deliver a book to a friend. As a reader, I can identify with that type of determination and loyalty in a character. If you love historical fiction, books about books, or character-driven stories, then rush to your library or bookstore to grab a copy.
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Historical Fiction

Another novel set during WWII based on a real place and several real people; in this case the American Library in Paris.  Odille, our main protagonist, is French and the daughter of the police commissioner.  Her parents want her to get married and settle down, but her fondest wish is to be a librarian.  She speaks English and so gets a job at the American library as a book shelver.  This is at the start of the war in 1939.  Her story meanders through the war years and the colorful people she meets at and through the library.  Her story continues in an alternate POV timeline told by Lily.  

Odille is now living in Montana and is the strange crotchety old lady across the street.  Lily decides to interview Odille for a school project and comes to know her story.  Odille teaches Lily French and other life lessons.  Primarily that jealousy only makes us do things we will regret later.

Besides the life lesson about jealousy, the point of this novel seems to be that books and libraries bring comfort even in the darkest of times.  Most of the action takes place in the development of the characters' relationships.  This book is like having oatmeal for breakfast - it's warm and fulfilling but rather bland.  It's kind of like a library itself - quietly rewarding.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC of this book.
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OH MY GOSH!! This book was AMAZING. Normally, I’m not a big fan of alternating timelines but this book did it so well that I honestly couldn’t wait to switch back and forth because I’d become so engrossed in both stories. It was fascinating to read about the real life heroes of the American Paris Library and made me wish I knew people with such integrity today. Phenomenal book!
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This novel was long awaited. Ever since I read Moonlight in Odessa, I had been waiting for Janet Skeslien Charles to write another book. While it took over ten years, it was well worth the wait! (I just hope she won't make me wait another ten years for her next one!)

Even when I was early into reading this novel, I was recommending it. It was so well told, with such interesting characters and plots. I never knew the role the American Library in Paris played during the Holocaust or about all the crow letters. Odile was such a complex lead character, and she tended to hold grudges a lot. I can't say I liked all the choices she made, but I get why she made some of them in the moment. I loved her relationship with her twin brother Remy and her friendships with the library staff. I also love the connection she has with Lily in the 1980s and how she becomes like a second mother to her.

There were some heavy parts and one scene that was difficult to read and think about. I hated that Odile was the reason that scene happened, as it could have been prevented. At least she wasn't let off the hook for it.

Lily's story was interesting and sad at times, but I felt like the book would have been fine without it, as it was more of a vehicle for Odile to look back on her own life. I would have been fine just seeing things play out in the past without any hints from the "future" as to what was going to happen.

Overall, I love how this novel celebrates a love for books and the library was such a great centerpiece of the story. It shared the horrors of the Holocaust in a different way, but still made an impact.

Movie casting ideas:
Odile (1940s): Garance Marillier
Odile (1980s): Isabelle Huppert
Lily: Mina Sundwall
Margaret: Jenna Coleman
Bitsi: Stacy Martin
Paul: Matthieu Lange
Ms. Reeder: Audrey Fleurot
Eleanor: Samara Weaving
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Really enjoyed this book. At first I thought mot another Ww2 story but this was very different. Enjoyed Paris from afar. And learned about a lot of new things that I hadn’t known about.
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If you are a fan of books than you have definitely visited a library a time or two then. This book is a love letter to libraries and how much we need them in during the most difficult times, in this case WWII in Paris, France. With the two time frames of the 1940s and 1980s, we see reflections, future, and the joys what books bring to people's lives! A wonderful read.
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I enjoyed this book very much! I am a sucket books that weave a fictional story with real historical figures and events, as well as books about books.

The characters are flawed, but we see them grow and learn from mistakes in a really lovely way. Odile in 1980's America and her relationship with Lily had some of my favourite scenes. How Odile was able to pass on some of the lesson's she had learned from her own youth in Paris really well done.

I will say that this book was a bit slow to pull me in, but once it did I was hooked. The events toward the end that pull everything together was shocking and perfect in a heartbreaking kind of way.
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Every librarian I know will love this book. I read it all in one day; I just could not stop. Not only is it a WWII historical, a genre I favor, but it's full of librarians. One of whom classifies people and conversations in her head - which made me laugh when as I agreed.

Reading the author's note at the end filled me with amazement - she discovered this fact-based story while she herself was working at the American Library in Paris. And now divides her time between Paris and Montana - my envy knows no bounds. And is now an author - how terribly cool!

It also reminded me of the French I studied and have mostly forgotten, and was full of wise quotations from wonderful books. Guaranteed to strike the heart of every librarian! 

Recommended highly to fans of WWII women's novels, book lovers and librarians all. Visiting Paris and that library is firmly on my Bucket List.
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This book wasn’t what I had expected. It was better. This is a rare and fascinating glimpse of WWII that we never get to see. This story focuses more on the characters then the actual war, It shows us their disappointments, the loss, hope, their healing, and the power of friendship.  I was not expecting some of the brutal details and events towards the end but they added an extra element to this story. Seeing a group of library work friends quickly become family while helping to fight a war and occupation of their city it truly magical. Highly recommend to all historical function lovers.
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Novels about books never fail to appeal to the bibliophile in me and a Paris setting always catches my eye. Much has been said about the cast of  characters working at the American Library and their way of quietly resisting was the focus of the novel, but I really liked the element of friendship between two generations.  In this dual timeline, Odile is a young librarian at the American Library in Paris in 1939, and then later, in the 1980s, she is a widow living next door to Lily, a lonely teenager. Lily dreams of the world beyond her small town and sees Odile as an exotic bird from a foreign land. At times, it was hard to like young Odile who was spoiled and naive for someone living in Nazi occupied Paris, but I believe that was the author's intent, because this is a coming of age novel for both Odile and Lily. The beauty of their friendship is that Odile guides Lily and helps her avoid making the same mistakes that caused Odile to leave Paris. Older Odile is loveable, wiser, and infinitely kind, and she needs Lily's friendship as much as Lily needs hers. There are several beautiful quotes in this novel that will resonate with booklovers. Such a good read!
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The very diverse characters from a variety of countries afford a spectrum of  reactions to the arrival of Hitler’s troops into Paris. The library staff’s determination to keep the library open and serving everyone, even in direct opposition to the dictates of the Nazi occupiers, demonstrates the  equalizing force of access to knowledge. As events develop, and as scarcity takes its toll, the author illuminates how adversity reveals true character. 
     Using the technique of switching story lines between past and present , she also demonstrates the long ranging consequences of choices and actions made in the heat of a moment. 
     Characters are well drawn, and the author avoids stock characterizations. Not all Nazis were horrible, and not all patriots were noble. 
     By thoroughly researching her subject matter and interviewing people who knew people and events from the time, this author has provided an emotionally charged look into some of the realities of World War 2.  
     An excellent book!
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I wanted to hug this book after I read the ending. This book was a wonderful story about a part of WWII history that I didn't know anything about. The writing was beautiful and the characters were so well developed. I would definitely recommend this book to any historical fiction lover. I received a free copy of this book from netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a very interesting book about France during the beginning of World War II.  It also was very informative about libraries, lives and situations at the time.  I never knew that there was an American Library in Paris, such an amazing fact.  The author did an excellent job of drawing you in with amazing characters and a depth of feelings from them.  The way their lives were changed and molded because of the war was very enlightening..  This book took place not only during the war but also after.  Seeing how the characters looked at things and learned from them was well done.  This book is well thought out and well written.  It has become one of my favorites for the year.
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What I found especially fascinating about this book was the real story that the fictional story was based upon.
The Paris Library and its history during World War was so well described that it was easy to picture it.  The heroism depicted by the determination of the librarians and employees to maintain the Library during the German occupation was so powerful.
The story linking Odile and Lily wasn't as strong as that of the ALP. It was interesting to see the role of the French population during wartimes.  It's another worthwhile addition to the trove of the French role during World War ll.
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