What could feel more homey to a book lover than a book about a library – especially one set in occupied Paris during World War II? Janet Skeslien Charles has produced a gem in this novel based on the true story of the American Library in Paris. It is a tribute to both the staff and subscribers who fought to keep its services going during the German occupation.
The Paris Library is also a story of romance, family and friendship. The narrator is Odile Souchet, a young woman hired to work in the library shortly before the war’s outbreak. Her great loves are the Dewey Decimal system and literature, expressed in quotations from favorite works that frequently forced me to stop and make note of the titles I haven’t read.
As Parisian society crumbles, those bound together by their love of reading become bound ever closer to one another. They launch a campaign to donate books and magazines to soldiers. Staff and patrons risk their lives to deliver books to Jews denied access to the library by the occupying forces.
This is not to say that everyone behaves heroically. War conditions force otherwise decent people to do despicable things and destroy precious relationships. But others draw closer together in defiance of the evil around them. Miss Reeder, an American who runs the library, remains in Paris as long as she can “[b]ecause I believe in the power of books – we do important work, by making sure knowledge is available, and by creating community. And because I have faith … In young women like you and Bitsi and Margaret – I know you’ll set the world right.”
The Paris Library serves to remind us why we read – to feed our souls as food nourishes our bodies.
The novel contains a few mild sexual scenes.
You can use the link below to read an interview with the author and her process in creating this book.