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The Paris Library

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

“The Paris Library” Janet Skeslien Charles Frequently when searching for a book to read, I like to look where the story is set. Perusing through descriptions of novels on jacket covers puts me off. All the books sound the same. But the setting, particularly if I have been to that place, and even better if the setting is in a foreign country, makes me want to open the book. That is the case with “The Paris Library.” Set in Paris, it tells the true story of how heroic librarians managed to keep the American Library open during WW II when France was invaded by Germany and Paris was taken over by the Nazis. I lived in Paris for 6 months in the 70s. With my limited French, and two young children to entertain, the American library was a godsend for me. But of course, it was even much more essential for Parisian living under the Occupation.

The book, a moving adventure story, is a celebration of librarians and the work they do to strengthen the ties of society. At the start of the story, Odile, a delightfully determined young woman with strong morals, is surrounded by friends and family who also seem to share these values. But under the stress of the Occupation some of them change for the worse. Odile is forced to change from an idealist to a realist.

The book introduces us to the intricacies of libraries, how the Dewey decimal system works (yes, they use it at the Millicent library) and what is involved with keeping us library users informed. Reading this page-turner will not only enthralled you, it may make you want to become even more involved with The Friends of Rochambeau. And that is good because libraries are so precious!

-L. Kushner

Cover of the book The Paris Library
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

From the publisher:

"An instant New York Times, Washington Post, and USA TODAY bestseller—based on the true story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris during World War II—The Paris Library is a moving and unforgettable “ode to the importance of libraries, books, and the human connections we find within both” (Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author).

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet seems to have the perfect life with her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into the city, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

“A love letter to Paris, the power of books, and the beauty of intergenerational friendship” (Booklist), The Paris Libraryshows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest places.

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