Did you know that during WWII, the librarians at The American Library in Paris delivered books to their forbidden Jewish patrons right under the noses of their German occupiers?
This captivating novel, The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles is filled with wartime suspense, the nuances of friendship, romance, betrayal, and fascinating historical information about The American Library in Paris.
Much to my delight, it also had plenty of French food mentions!
The Library of Paris begins in 1939 when Odile Souchet, a young Parisian, applies and is hired for her dream job as a librarian at The American Library in Paris. With the war underway, Odile, her family, community of colleagues, and friends increasingly face the turmoil of France’s Nazi occupation. Her brother, Remy, enlists in the war and Paris becomes increasingly repressive. The public library is under constant scrutiny. In spite of this authoritarian environment, the librarians commit to the continuation of promoting free ideas by remaining open and even secretly delivering books to Jewish patrons no longer allowed to come to the library.
Throughout The Paris Library, the plot also weaves the reader into another time and place. Lily is a teenager living in Montana in 1983. A French language and culture enthusiast, Lily is fascinated by her widowed French neighbor Mrs. Gustafason, the future Odile. Lily and Odile become fast friends as Lily begins language lessons and Odile’s secret past unravels. The two form an intimate bond that allows Odile to help Lily navigate changing family life and jealousy in friendship. Likewise, Lily encourages Odile to reconnect with her past.
I want to thank my cousin Amy Chapman Biegaj. She messaged me this spring and suggested that I read The Paris Library. I am so grateful to her for the recommendation!
As always, I am including a recipe to accompany this novel. It is a Leek and Potato Soup that I made while reading The Paris Library. Surprisingly, this soup was tasty especially topped with fresh chives from our spring garden.
Leek and Potato soup is known as a diet food for French women. This morning when I got up, I could have sworn I felt several pounds lighter! — 😉 Carole
Janet Skeslien Charles: The Paris Library – Author Interview (a terrific interview)