Odile Souchet is hired at the American Library in Paris in 1939. With her dream job, a dashing police officer boyfriend, and her family nearby it feels like she has it all. Until the Nazis take hold of Paris threatening everything Odile holds dear. With occupying forces keen to silence dissent, it isn’t long before the library is under threat pushing the staff to join the Resistance if they want to protect their patrons and the library itself.
The war feels far away in Montana in 1983 where Lily, a lonely girl desperate for adventure strikes up a tentative friendship with her reclusive neighbor. Digging into her neighbor’s mysterious and dazzling past in Paris, Lily starts to understand that sometimes even the best intentions can lead to heartbeak and betrayal in The Paris Library (2021) by Janet Skeslien Charles.
The Paris Library is inspired by the true story of the librarians at the American Library in Paris and their heroics during World War II. All characters are cued as white. Multiple voice actors make the audiobook an immersive listening experiences.
Real heroics blend with some precious sensibilities as Odile acclimates to life working at the American Library in Paris–opening chapters include Odile’s loving recitation of Dewey Decimal numbers. The action really starts when the story shifts and readers begin to tease out the secrets of Odile’s past alongside Lily.
Through this dual narrative readers can see that war does not make for easy choices as Odile, her colleagues, and her friends are pushed to their limits during Paris’ Nazi occupation. Suspense and drama build as the novel moves inexorably to the war’s conclusion and, with it, even more difficult questions for Odile in the face of bitter losses.
The Paris Library is a carefully researched story imbued with a deep love of Paris and libraries; perfect for readers interested in World War II settings with a bit of mystery attached.
Possible Pairings: The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis, Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara, All the Flowers in Paris by Sarah Jio, The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin, All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams