Tuesday, 23 February 2021

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles


“Sometimes I like books more than people.”

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles recently released, and I looked forward to reading it because the title makes it a perfect Jenn-book. Paris + libraries? Yes, please!

This is a WWII novel told through two timelines. Odile in the 1980s is the mysterious French widow who is especially intriguing to her neighbour, a teenager named Lily. Odile in the past was a librarian at the American Library in Paris during the Occupation.

This book is a love letter to libraries, and to the essential roles they play in society. It is also an ode to how books can carry us through tumultuous times, which is a feeling to which I think many of us can relate over the past year. “Libraries are lungs... books the fresh air breathed in to keep the heart beating, to keep the brain imagining, to keep hope alive.”

The Paris Library explores the social history of day-to-day life in Paris during the Nazi regime, where the reader gets a glimpse as to how Parisians found small ways to resist where possible.

Jumping to the 1980s, the French teacher in me loved Lily's perspective just as much as she takes French lessons from Odile. I will say, the French teacher in me was a bit annoyed at a French typo that was repeated throughout the novel, but I'll try to let that go, since I enjoyed the rest of this book quite a bit.

In the end, I think Odile was too hard on herself for how certain events transpired, but with the trauma of war, how one feels might not always make sense to an outsider. I know I've definitely been accused of being too hard on myself, so maybe Odile's perspective is a true reflection of human nature after all. If you enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, you will likely really enjoy this book and its delightful cast of characters.

Thank you to @simonschusterca for sending this copy my way.