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The Paris Architect

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Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn't really believe in. Ultimately he can't resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces—behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe—detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.

Written by an expert whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every life the architect tries to save.

376 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 1, 2013

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About the author

Charles Belfoure

10 books501 followers
Charles Belfoure is the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Architect and House of Thieves. An architect by profession, he graduated from the Pratt Institute and Columbia University, and he taught at Pratt as well as Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. His area of specialty is historic preservation, and he has published several architectural histories, one of which won a Graham Foundation national grant for architectural research. He has been a freelance writer for The Baltimore Sun and The New York Times. He lives in Maryland.

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5 stars
18,686 (33%)
4 stars
23,754 (42%)
3 stars
10,128 (18%)
2 stars
2,145 (3%)
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780 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,214 reviews
Profile Image for RoseMary Achey.
1,346 reviews
December 1, 2013
The concept of this book was excellent….an architect who retrofits spaces within homes to hide Jewish individuals during WWII. The writing left much to be desired. Filled with anachronisms, the narrative was so simplistic; it just did not fit the time period.

From The Paris Architect page 198:

“He felt as if he was in one of those dumb-ass American movies he’d seen. A character would be in a quandary over what to do. A miniature angel wearing wings and halo appeared on one shoulder telling him to do what’s right, and a devil with a pitchfork was on the other shoulder advising him not to.”

Really….in 1942?
Profile Image for Dem.
1,184 reviews1,080 followers
April 9, 2021
Kept me engrossed from start to finish. A suspenseful and heart pounding read that is full of dislikable characters and yet they were interesting and believable.

This book was recommend to me by bookshop employee who knew I enjoyed non fiction books set during WWII. While this is a fiction story it doesn't really stray too far from the reality of wartime Paris and I thought it was convincing and clever.

Paris 1942, Architect Lucien Bernard accepts a commission that will bring him little acclaim in the Architecture world but will bring him vast wealth. However there is an air of danger about it. He has to design a secret hiding place for a wealthy Jewish Man and one that even the most determining Nazi soldier won’t discover. However when one of Lucien’s designs fails horribly, the problem of hiding Jews becomes personal and Lucien finds himself in way over his head.

A novel with some tense moments, I was literally on the edge of my seat reading this one. Few likeable characters, but this doesn’t particularly bother me when the plot is good and the story flows like this one. Some paragraphs made for uncomfortable reading but having read numerous non fiction accounts, felt very true to what did take place in interrogations while the Germans were in charge. I enjoyed the Architectural element of the story and the twists and turns that kept me turning the pages.

I had a hard copy of this book but also listened to 1/3 of it on audible and I really enjoyed the narration which was narrated by Mark Bramhall.

My first book by Charles Belfoure and I look forward to reading more books by this author.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,007 reviews354 followers
February 23, 2019
O Vírus Benigno

Lucien é um arquiteto ambicioso que não sente particular empatia pelo sofrimento alheio.

Assim, quando convidado a participar num empreendimento que poderá salvar vidas humanas, apenas se sente motivado pelo lado material do projecto.

Porém, com o passar do tempo, a prática a que se entregou, será parteira de sentimentos mais nobres.
Lucien modifica-se e vai-nos conquistando!

Dir-se-ia que a causa nobre a que se dedicou foi como um Vírus Benigno que lhe infectou a Alma!...

Espraiando horizontes, creio que inadvertidamente, o autor desta história terá encontrado uma boa terapia de reabilitação social.

Pelo Trabalho, o Homem não só transforma o Mundo, como a si mesmo!

"O Arquitecto de Paris" é uma história super original, que nos cativa logo de início.
É um 4+++, com toda a convicção!!! 😊👍
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,694 reviews1,479 followers
October 7, 2018
How do I put this one into words for my review?! It was gooooooood. A goooood novel. Not high literature, but damn it all I enjoyed it a lot. Exciting. It starts with great historical details of life in Paris during WW2, then the excitement builds and builds and builds. Parts are gruesome, but the ending left a big smile on my face. Yeah, tons of fun.

But I have to tell you this: the narration of the audiobok was t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e…..by Mark Bramhall. I mean his French and German dialects were laughable. And you are not supposed to be laughing. He cannot do women’s voices either. I mean bad. OK, when he is just relating straight events, not dialogs, you can relax. The thing is, the terrible narration did NOT affect my appreciation of the book. I make a huge effort to distinguish between the writing and the narration of a book. Good book, but lousy narration. As usual, I am rating the book, not the narration when I give those stars.

There is humor. There are historical details. The book captures the French and how they looked upon the Nazi occupation of Paris. Some French were no angels. Collaborators and those of the Résistance, they are both here. Very realistic. Some women were great and others despicable. Some French were great and some Germans too! :0) Yes, you get architecture too. Classical and Bauhaus and ….oh you have to read this fun, exciting, scary and amusing book. I loved, absolutely loved the ending. It is a novel! I do not want to tell you more than that. Otherwise I might spoil your reading experience.
Profile Image for Paige.
121 reviews28 followers
November 30, 2015

I felt almost immediately that this book wasn't for me. I kept with it because it's so highly rated on Goodreads, and because I was listening to the audiobook at work, so I had time to kill. I was sure that the book would get better as it went on. I found the reverse to be true.

I'm so disappointed and upset about this book that I doubt my ability to form a coherent review. I have decided to do this in the form of bullet points, and hope I make sense. I also apologize if I butcher the spelling of some names. I listened to the audiobook, and did not see them in print.
•Lucien is immediately made out to be an anti-Semitic, heartless bastard. The author sold this point to me a little too well in the first half of the book, which caused me to find his dramatic change of heart roughly half way through the book to be forced and unbelievable.
•I didn't care for any of the characters. Belfoure created a cast of deeply unlikable characters, with the exception of Manet and Juliette, who I merely found inoffensive.
•Belfoure makes it seem that Nazi occupied France was entirely made up of self serving, materialistic, anti-Semitic, cowardly assholes. Even the resistance fighters were painted as selfish and cowardly, and occasionally bumbling.
•Adele was obnoxious, and I got incredibly sick of hearing about her fantastic body, the many things that aroused her, and her sexual preferences.
•The Nazis spoke MUCH too freely for me to find believable. Hertzog in particular. They all shared plans and opinions (often gently contradictory to Hitler's) with French civilians much too openly. I don't believe for a second that the SS would've allowed that to continue from Nazi officers.
•Schlagel was a caricature. Just ridiculous. He was more of a bad cartoon villain than a believable Nazi SS captain.
•Sexism abounds. Bette has a whole section devoted to pondering how wonderful it is that she's beautiful, and pitying her sister who is ugly. Lucien values his wife because of her beauty. Women were always spoken of in terms of their looks. In contrast, I had no idea what any of the men were supposed to look like. Plus, Lucien forces his way into Bette's apartment against her wishes, and I pulled a few quotes:
"What the hell is your problem, woman?"
"...he resisted the strong urge to punch her in the face."
He then proceeds to order her around in her own home.
•Terribly written. Of particular annoyance, I noticed that everyone "roared with laughter" or "burst with laughter". No one chuckles or giggles. There is never minor amusement. Everyone "erupts with laughter" at the slightest joke (which I never found funny).

What rot.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for B the BookAddict.
300 reviews656 followers
December 24, 2016

While the method of illuding the Nazis mentioned in this book is one which doubtless would have been used, this particular story itself is fictional. These events are not drawn from one particular case; rather, the author says he got the idea from the story of Nicholas Owen, a Jesuit lay brother who devoted the greater part of his life to constructing hiding places to protect the lives of persecuted priests during the reign of Elizabeth 1.

In 1942 Paris, all Jewish people are being rounded up by the Nazis; sadly for the Jews, most of the French are unsympathetic to their plight. Lucien Bernard is one of those French people; he doesn't hate Jewish people but he wont go out of his way for them either. He's an out of work architect too busy scrambling for a living. A prospective client, a very wealthy Auguste Manet, offers him a new commission but only if he will agree to a secret commission. Manet has been helping Jewish people evade and escape persecution and imminent death. Desperate for money, Lucien agrees but he's under no illusions about himself; he's doing it purely for the money. Life under the Boche regime is tough and he has a wife and a mistress to support. As the first job is successful, Manet talks Lucien into a second then a third and the work becomes almost like private game Lucien is having with the Nazis; he loves the thrill of tricking them. But it all gets personal for Lucien when Manet convinces him to care for a Jewish boy for a couple of weeks; Lucien suddenly has the son he's always wanted...

The story has not many likeable characters excepting perhaps Manet and Bette. The Nazis are, of course, deplorable and the attitude of the French people toward the Jews leaves so much to be desired. Charles Belfoure is the author of a couple of books about architectural history -which I have not read. But I'm not convinced of his talent as a novelist. Basically the story is very plausible and quite readable but his narration is somewhat stilted. I did actually check to see whether the book had been translated from another language because for me, that is how it flows. It feels quite stilted and there is something amiss with the patterns/flow of sentences. Perhaps he just needs another editor; who knows... A story which maybe would have been a 4 star rating in the hands of a more practised novelist but with Charles Belfoure, it has to be only a 3★.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,249 reviews393 followers
January 13, 2014
Undeservedly low ratings on Goodreads. In 1942 Paris, gifted architect Lucien Bernard is leading double lives: a dull, loveless marriage while having an affair with a famous designer and accepting commissions from a Christian to design hiding places for Jews and to design factories for the Nazis. Living in terror, Lucien is afraid of the Gestapo (for helping Jews) as well as the resistance (for helping the German war effort), even though Lucien rationalizes his work as benefiting a post-war France. Lucien eventually adopts a 12-year old orphan boy, finding an outlet for his love. Heart warming story, including his spiritual bond with the German architect in charge of building the factories.
Profile Image for Taury.
463 reviews81 followers
December 7, 2022
Who needs horror books when you can read The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure. Novel was nothing like what I was expecting. This goes into graphic detail what the Nazis did to Jews, collaborators and others that did not follow their demands. It didn’t not take much for the nazis to mane and kill others. The book did not hold back these details either. Overall, i really enjoyed this novel. Beware in places it was completely horrific. I will let the reader find out what the architect did to title this book
Profile Image for Erika Robuck.
Author 11 books1,060 followers
September 20, 2013
From the moment I saw the haunting cover of this novel, I knew I had to read it. The small Jewish girl hiding in plain sight says so much about the work of gifted architect, Lucien Bernard, the flawed protagonist of Charles Belfoure’s THE PARIS ARCHITECT.

Lucian is fairly despicable at the start of the novel. He no longer loves his wife, he has a mistress, and he does not care about the Jews being plagued by the Nazis in occupied France. He only cares about surviving by making as much money as possible, and growing his reputation as an architect.

His base need for a salary involves him as an architect working for enemies in the war. On one hand, he creates ingenius hiding spaces in apartments for Jews; on the other, he designs modern factories for Germans. It is all the same to him, as long as he gets paid, until he makes a personal connection with a Jew that ends disastrously.

I asked myself many times in the reading of this novel how I could care about such a heartless protagonist, but the riveting story, my curiosity about his innovation, and my wish to see his growth compelled me forward. I’m so glad it did.

This is not an easy book to read. Belfoure is unflinching in his portrayal of the animal nature of man, and of traitors, spies, and Nazis. The darkness is balanced, however, with a growing sense of hope and redemption throughout the narrative.

Booklist compares Belfoure’s writing to Ken Follett, and that is an excellent comparison in tension, intrigue, detail, and character. If you enjoy fast paced, graphic, and fascinating historical fiction, I recommend you read THE PARIS ARCHITECT.
Profile Image for Amber.
132 reviews
August 22, 2013
I really struggled with how to rate this book.

On the one hand, I've read a ton of WW2 fiction and I loved how this presented a different perspective. The story was engaging and suspenseful, and in some passages so realistic that I felt sick to my stomach.

On the other hand, I really struggled with the narrative voice. Something about it just kept popping me out of the story. I also felt like Lucien's changes of heart and growth were not well explained - not so much growth as just a sudden unexplained change of mind. And I will not spoil the ending, but I do not feel like it was well set up - I didn't see it coming not because it was so cleverly built up or disguised, but because there was nothing there to lead me in that direction, which made the whole thing feel unrealistic. The whole thing just suffered from a lack of emotion to me.

So read it, it is good. It is just not great.
Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,043 reviews1,367 followers
June 27, 2015
Can you trust the people you used to trust? Can your life be normal? That question was asked every single day of Lucien's life and every single day of any French citizen living in Paris during the Nazi occupation.

Life definitely was not the same as before. You had to watch everything you said and did. Lucien had to make a decision about doing something he knew was very dangerous. Lucien was an architect and was asked to design hiding places for Jewish friends of Auguste Manet, a well-known businessman in Paris.

Lucien feared for his life but couldn't pass up this offer. Lucien agreed only because he had no money, and because he would be paid a large sum.

You will feel Lucien's fear as he is doing something he loves, but also considering whether it is worth the cost of his life if he gets caught. You will grow to love Lucien as his truly caring side comes out in the uncaring society of this era.

You will become immersed in Paris's new way of life that had to be endured, and you will share the fear of the citizens as they waited for the dreaded knock on the door looking for Jewish residents or for a French citizen who was hiding a Jewish citizen.

The horrors of occupation will be with you as you read as well as become involved with the authentic characters and marvelous writing style. The characters were perfectly portrayed from the deviousness and cruelty of the Gestapo to the cowering citizens. The author has an easy style and draws you right into the story.

THE PARIS ARCHITECT is another WWII tale but with a different twist and one where the tension builds and your fear for Lucien increases as you rapidly turn the pages.

This is an excellent historical fiction book with some graphic scenes that depict the atrocities of WWII, but will hold your interest until the last word because of the characters and their stories. 5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Aditi.
920 reviews1,323 followers
August 7, 2015
“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

----Winston Churchill

Charles Belfoure, a national bestselling author, has penned a heart-touching as well as enlightening and nostalgic novel, The Paris Architect, that accounts the story of an architect based in Paris during the world war II when German have occupied the city and was ordering the Jews out of the city, when this normal regular, law-abiding architect chances upon a golden opportunity to prove his worth by taking life-threatening risks to be a hero.


Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces—behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe—detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.

Lucien, a law-abiding Parisian architect gets a job for the richest man in Paris, Monsieur Monet, who asks him to build a secret room for some of his Jewish friends. Now Lucien, being very careful during the Occupation and has forever agreed to what the Germans asked him to do, can help the Germans' enemy to prov himself more than just a regular man in these difficult times?

First of all, this book made me fall in love with it's descriptions and vivid imagery. The author brings the 1942 Paris alive with his eloquent writing style. From the intricate details of every other building to every other streets from the odd ones to the busiest ones, from the food to the linguistic aspect to the culture, everything has been laid out strikingly. While reading it felt like, I'm swiftly being carried into that Parisian essence. Not only the backdrop is vividly portrayed with all it's beauty and grace, but the author has captured the era of World War II so vividly. The effect of Nazis and the Gestapo arresting the Jews everywhere is brought alive wonderfully. In fact, the author has managed to instill that Nazi-fear through his story, like the sudden knock on the door, or a sudden car pulling up etc.

The writing style is quite elegant and polished and properly layered with enough distinct emotions to make the readers feel evocatively. The narrative style is free flowing and articulate as well as engaging. The prose is eloquent with a fast pace and the book has so much tension that it is bound to keep the readers hooked onto the story till the very last page.

The characters are drawn with enough realism and has a way to make the readers feel connected with their despair and hopes. The main character, Lucien, is like every other middle class man, his dreams to his infidel ways to his way of living his life style, everything is bound to strike a chord with the common man in today's world. The gradual change in his demeanor is very well projected by the author. The supporting characters are also very strongly developed. The Nazi-German soldiers and the chiefs are strikingly arrested in this book, that gives the readers a real feeling of what it feels like to be around a German soldier during those times.

The theme of the book is centered around about how one stands up or stands against the Germans to be a human being. Other than that, the architectural descriptions and how an architect's mind works while they are visualizing a building are carefully and saliently. In short, this is a very compelling as well as poignant novel which has lots of unspoken history as well as truth hidden behind the times when German was either sending the Jews into concentration camps or torturing them to death.

Verdict: This book will appeal to the historical fiction lovers and if you want to taste the city of Paris during the World War II era, then do grab a copy of this book for sure.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Charles Belfoure, for providing me with a copy of his book, in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,319 reviews1,611 followers
April 5, 2020
DNF at 33%.

From the very first pages, I knew this was unlikely to be a book that I would enjoy. Right off the bat, I just found the main character, Lucien, to be insufferable and the douchiest of douchebags. I dislike everything about him. Everything. And at this point, I am quite sure that he will come to see the error of his anti-semitic ways, but honestly, it is too little too late, and I couldn't care less about his "growth" to bare-minimum-level human. I don't expect to LOVE a main character, and I enjoy the hell out of a flawed main character, maybe even anti-hero. But I have to have SOMETHING to identify with. SOMETHING to hold on to and root for. And Lucien gave me not one thing. The fact that he reluctantly and truculently allowed himself to be hired for inordinate amounts of money to design MINIMAL changes to a building to save people's lives was... just not enough. He did it for the wrong reasons, and even disliked knowing that actual people were saved by them. He wanted to know they worked because he wanted to fool the Germans, not save Jews. He's a real gem.

This man witnesses a man get shot on the street right next to him on page one, and is in shock... until he realizes the man was a Jew, and then his only concern is whether cleaning the blood spatter off of his coat will make him late for a meeting with a potential client. When he completes a job and gets a large bonus, he blows tons of money (in occupied supply-rationed France) on real pearls, an expensive upper-class restaurant dinner and champagne for his mistress, while his wife sits at home trying to figure out how to make do with the rations. Fuck that guy. He gets more jobs, and gets a "company car" to visit the work sites, and his first thought is about his mistress and how she'll be so impressed and they can spend a long weekend away... blah blah blah. Because apparently he's just the kind of considerate husband every girl dreams about. Every single page had me rolling my eyes. I liked him less and less the more I read about him.

On top of that, the writing here is... Not good. Not good at all. Quite bad, actually. Everything is told. Everything. We're told every thought, every feeling, every action. We're never shown anything and the writing feels juvenile and simplistic at that.

The narrative states the absolute most obvious things, but leaves other things completely ambivalent. One page we have a German officer talking about the art that he has acquired via the previous Jewish owners "taking a trip" - where Belfoure feels necessary to spell out what kind of trip it is... and then very shortly after we have a German SS officer making examples out of building tenants where a Jew was found hidden. He plays a game of "pick a number" and shoots the "winner", then makes a big speech for everyone's benefit to spell out the consequences of hiding Jews... and then says something like "Well I don't want to keep you all day, have a good evening." and the chapter ends. Uhh, are you killing people, or just pontificating? I mean, probably we all know what happens, but the man ALSO seems like he likes whimsy and game playing and just in general fucking with people... so a simple sentence at the end saying that they opened fire on the tenants or something would carry more finality and weight than leaving it unresolved.

So far, every Jewish person depicted (alive) in this book has a "vast fortune" that is coveted by the Nazis and is the reason that they must hide. (You know, that, as if the ethnic cleansing pogroms weren't enough.) It just struck me as very stereotypical. Couldn't include ONE working class Jewish person? Everyone had to be some rich person on the run? (I don't know if this trend kept up after the point I quit, but I think it probably did, and it irritated me enough in the amount I read to mention it.)

And don't even get me STARTED on the dialogue. UGH. Real people absolutely talk like this:
"Adele, my love, I'm going to be doing a new factory for Auguste Manet, the big industrialist," announced Lucien.

"Why, how wonderful, my dear Lucien. That's thrilling news," said Adele. "I just love it when you get a new job -- you remind me of a five-year-old on Christmas morning. I'm so happy for you. Remember, you must show me the preliminary designs before you present them to Manet."

"You know I will, my sweet. You're my coarchitect, we work together on everything," Lucien said.

Then there's a scene where an SS officer is torturing an elderly Jewish man for information. And this happens:
"This filthy Jew has an estimated fortune of over one hundred million francs and possesses one of the greatest art collections in the entire world, one that Reich Marshal Hermann Goring admires very much and wishes to take off Monsieur Janusky's hands. Because once we find Monsieur Janusky, he won't be having much time for art appreciation. We don't consider this man just another rich, thieving Jew, but an enemy of the Reich. He's used his millions to help hundreds and hundreds of Jews throughout Europe to escape. Janusky found refuge for a bunch of Hungarian Jews in India of all places. It's amazing what your client has accomplished. I'm really looking forward to meeting him. So please tell me where I can find him."
Holy Bond villain speech, Batman. I felt I was being tortured by that speech alone. I'm sure that it was for the reader's benefit... but it's entirely unnecessary and pointless to spell it out like this, since we ALREADY KNEW THAT'S WHAT THEY WANT HIM FOR. Since he informed us himself like... chapter two. (Also, it's previously stated, in the paragraph immediately preceding this one, that the man being tortured is an executive at the company that Janusky owned, so not sure how Janusky became his client at the end there.)

And then there's the Americanized feel. This takes place in Paris, yet the ONLY French I've seen so far is the names of restaurants and street names, and people referring to each other as "monsieur". Germans occupy Paris, but not a single word of German to be seen either, other than the military divisions (Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS) and one mention of a Panzer tank. Everyone sounded varying degrees of American. From German soldiers sounding like Americans in general, and TEXAN Americans specifically, I just could not stand it. It continually took me out of the story.
"Fuckin' Jew bastard!" screamed the officer writhing in pain on the floor. "Did you see what he did to me? Did you kill the sonuvabitch?"
Fucking HONESTLY. It's ridiculous.

Lastly, I'm gonna bitch about the inordinately overwhelming and annoying as fuck architecture stuff. EVERY SINGLE PAGE that Lucien was a part of was of him wanking over modern architecture in some way. Even when he's with his mistress Adele, he's all hard over the fact that SHE, unlike his wife, has MODERN tastes and that apparently makes her desireable or something? (She's not. She's a giant douche also, and they deserve each other and his wife deserves better.)

There are entire CONVERSATIONS, for pages, about architecture and trading compliments about each other's taste and style and work. I get it, dude, you're an architect. You like architecture. Architects gotta architect.. GOT IT.
One page had me seriously rolling my eyes because we're supposed to believe that the word "detail" (when discussing architectural design plans) indicates someone with architectural training. I'm not joking.
"When Lucien hear the word 'detail,' he knew the man wasn't a layman but one of the architectural fraternity."
Because everyone knows that ONLY architects use that word and it's never used by anyone else. It's such a specific architectural industry term and all.

I can't imagine finishing this, considering how annoying I have found it thus far. Nope.
Ugh. I'm so over it.

1 star
Profile Image for Vonia.
611 reviews96 followers
December 24, 2020
This is one of my favorite in the World War II / German Nazis Ridiculousness genre. That is saying a lot. Because I don't know if you have looked under the hanging "Literature" placard lately in the bookstore, but I swear one quarter of them has to do with World War II. Certainly a quarter under "Memoirs" fall under that category.

Anyhow, on to why. Thank God for a book that takes a unique approach to this. It is not a weeping, depressing, fishing for empathy concentration camp narration, nor is it entirely focused on the plight of the Jewish or the innate evil in Hitler. Rather, the tragedies and the horror take the back burner to an architect's love.

Love for his work, love for buildings, love for the modernist style. An ingrained distrust, unease, and near hatred for the Jewish (taught to him by his father). How did such an ambitious, talented architect becomes a generous, altruistic man whom uses his talents to create, invent, and lead the construction of ingenious hiding places for the Jewish? So ingenious, indeed, that German Soldiers literally walk right over them; centimeters from their faces.

Of course, the soldiers are furious . Upper members of the government are soon involved, including those second in command to Hitler. Members of the Gestapo spend hours upon hours looking, to no avail.

It was touching and encouraging to watch the way Lucien became more and more empathetic to the Jewish plight. By the end, he willingly adopts a young Jewish boy trying to hide, who, in due course, he loves like the son he never had. In turn, he indirectly saves the architect's life. And never feels the need to tell him so.

After some time, it becomes plain to Luncien how good it feels to be able to outsmart the Germans. He demands, understandably, that he never meet the ones he is saving. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on how you look at it), he accidentally does one time. He can no longer be in denial regarding the realness, seriousness, and high amount of risk he is taking. He rationalizes that it is in exchange for his career. With these commissions given to him by the German government, his success is practically guaranteed. But what good would a guaranteed, made career be if he is shot by the Gestapo, or even worse, tortured to death?

I am confident that, put in Lucien's position, I would not hesitate to risk my life in the name of what is right and fair. The German treatment of the Jewish was undeniably cruel and wrong in every sense of the word.

But we never know, for sure, how we will act in any given situation. Until it really happens. Take Stanley Milgram's experiments in 1961. Or precisely ten years later, in 1971, during Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment.

That is where books come in. To give anyone the chance to live, for a few hours, in another person's world, with someone else's eyes.
Profile Image for Maureen.
318 reviews72 followers
April 15, 2020
This book was a five star read for me, although the subject matter was at times disturbing. I liked the idea of an architect building hideaways for the Jewish people of Nazi occupied France. What really really drew me in was the cover of the little girl looking out.
Lucien Bernard is the architect in this historical fiction novel. He is driven by money that is all he cares about. He works with the Germans to design modern factories, while also building places for the Jewish people who live in fear of the Germans. Lucien really doesn’t care about the Jewish people.
Lucien lives in fear himself that he will be caught by the Gestapo and will be killed by them for hiding Jews. Lucien becomes devastated when he finds that a Jewish man was killed because of a design flaw in a fireplace that he built. He feels differently know about the Jews. He finally feels sorrow for these people. He even adopts a young Jewish boy whom he keeps hidden in his apartment. Lucien learns to love Pierre with all his heart and would do anything to keep him alive.
This book was very engaging and full of suspense. The growth of Lucien’s character is the highlight of the book. This was a wonderful debut book by this author. I would definitely read another.
Profile Image for Gemma.
67 reviews21 followers
August 22, 2017
It felt like the author wrote this at breakneck speed in about three weeks – the prose was crude, clunky and lacking in imagination and sophistication. The research stuck out like muddy footprints on a carpet. I couldn’t get beyond page 100.
Profile Image for Amy | littledevonnook.
199 reviews1,201 followers
December 13, 2016
An interesting perspective on WW2 and an enjoyable read.

We follow Lucien, an architect living in Nazi-occupied Paris. A wealthy acquaintance of Lucien's commissions him for a secret job that could be fatal to the both of them. Lucien shows little interest in hiding Jews but with so much money on offer how can he resist? As time moves on Lucien begins to take satisfaction from outwitting the Nazi's and plans on making more elaborate hiding places for the helpless Jews. But how far will he go? Is he willing to risk his life?

I didn't much like the character of Lucien but I loved the way he evolved as the novel went on, he was pretty detestable! I had yet to read a WW2 novel that conveys the terror of having to run and hide from the Nazi's as well as this one, you could cut the tension with a knife! Definitely one I would recommend, especially if you're a fan of historical fiction based in WW2.
Profile Image for Laura.
742 reviews266 followers
September 2, 2016
3.5 stars. I'm tempted to give this a four just because it became such a page-turner. The plot is the thing here. And if you're interested in architecture, the author is also an architect, so bonus. WWII stories always grab me in the gut because how can they not? I'm still amazed at what happened. I'm amazed at the evil and just plain insanity exhibited by the Nazis, and that so many innocent people were killed simply because one certifiable man was able to convince a bunch of sheep to join him.

The writing isn't the star player here, but still, this book is a very fast read, and the story will certainly keep the pages turning. Once the halfway point hit and some children became involved in the story, I just had to know what happened. This takes place in occupied Paris, and enough historical detail was added in that I learned a few odd facts that added further interest to the story. The audio performance was good, not great. Recommended to historical fiction lovers who don't mind a few sprinkles of torture and another male author in midlife having a few too many romps I had to tolerate and press through. A worthwhile read, having said all that.

PS: My intention when I picked up this book on Friday night was to give it a skim and see if it was worth reading. I was immediately drawn into the story and had a hard time putting it down. To me, that says a lot for the book.
Profile Image for Carol Brill.
Author 3 books154 followers
June 23, 2016
A beautiful story balancing inhumanity and humanity set in Nazi-occupied France. Lucien Bernard is an ordinary man, driven to work for the Reich by his need to make a living and pride in his ability as an architect. His assignments present unexpected and dangerous opportunities to challenge his design imagination.
There are so many strengths in this novel, Lucien's character development as he takes risks he never suspected he is capable of, his surprising friendships with a German officer, Manet, and Bette. His affections for an orphan, Pierre.
Like so many books about the atrocities against Jews during the war, there were parts that were brutally hard to read. Charles Belfoure does a wonderful job balancing that horror with brave and caring characters who show humanity at its best.
Profile Image for Annette.
742 reviews321 followers
November 20, 2017
The story revolves around an architect, who is hired to make alterations to existing houses to hide Jews in Paris during WWII. For this he is rewarded with further commissions reflecting his dream projects.

The first half of the book just scratches the surface of human emotions. It gets deeper in the second half. There is a lot of stress on French people hating the Jewry.

The plot is pretty simple, but with some nuances it keeps the story interesting. The prose is simple. The book is a very quick easy read.

@Facebook: Best Historical Fiction
Profile Image for Dana Moison.
Author 4 books140 followers
May 7, 2019
This is the story of Lucien Bernard, an architect who resides in occupied Paris during WWII. Lucien struggles to find a job and fights to stay afloat financially until he receives an offer he cannot refuse: use his skills as an architect to devise secret hiding places for Jewish people persecuted by the Nazis. In return, he will receive substantial sums of money and prestigious job hires. Lucien agrees despite the tremendous fears that come with this decision. As time passes by, the decision that was initially based solely on greed and hatred towards the Germans makes Lucien develop a different take on life. Some of the different plot lines come nicely together toward the end. Unlike other holocaust books I've read, this one doesn't bring before us the Jewish outtake rather the viewpoint of rest of the mob that had no mercy for them and only prayed for this war to end. I guess that's why I didn't feel connected towards this story or its characters as I usually am when it comes to stories about the holocaust. I wasn't as moved as I expected to be. I didn't shed a tear or felt a pinch at heart like I always do when I read about the holocaust. The story is written in an almost indifferent/cold attitude towards this unforgivable time in human history that I just didn't appreciate. The plot had a potential to be riveting but the characters felt flat as if they were just scratching the tip of the iceberg, and that's too bad.
If you're interested in books about the holocaust and have a warm spot for architecture, it's worth the read. However, there are other books about this subject which I loved much more, historically and emotionally.
Profile Image for Amy.
911 reviews227 followers
April 18, 2022
I know there have been some complaints of weak writing and contrived plots or moments of plot, but I rather loved it anyway. It was a really clever look at the underside of German occupation of Paris and France near the end of the war, and of efforts of the Resistance. What was fascinating, is that Lucien was not an eager collaborator to either side. He was raised with a heavily anti-semitic father, and not a great care about what was happening to the Jews. His interest on both sides, was solely money for survival, trying to somehow survive unscathed, and in interesting architectural challenge and beauty. For him, it was all about design. The change that befalls Lucien is not a natural or easy one, and it doesn't come from a moral standpoint.

There is a lot of senseless violence in the book, which is hard to see, but there is also the miraculous saving of lives, and the creativity involved in saving individuals and networks supporting the resistance and Paris itself. But the hugest movement in the book is the transformation of consciousness of Lucien himself, and his ability to build something beautiful in the face of this destruction.

I thought a powerful contrasting theme was fathers and father figures. We have Lucien's father, Pierre's father, Alain's Uncle, and of course Lucien as a new father figure, learning about fatherhood on the spot. Each of them have had to figure out what being a man means, and how to stand up for what you believe is right, and who you wish to become. I thought that theme was the most powerful aspect of the story. Who Pierre becomes, and more strongly who Lucien becomes as a result of becoming a father himself. I actually teared up at the end. With all the senseless atrocity happening in the book, a contrived beautiful ending is exactly what was called for.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to read this with a few others in a buddy read, some of my favorite people to read books with. I am looking forward to hearing others thoughts, and anyone else who wants to comment. I also want to add that this book was in my top ten oldest books on my TBR. I have been wanting to read it for a very long time, and was thrilled at the opportunity to do so. Plus, this book will be forever associated with the debacle of leaving the library book on the plane. But when I was finished, I gave the newly acquired one to a guy on the hotel elevator, and I just knew he would appreciate it. I love passing a book forward. I enjoyed it, but now need to return to the book I started in its brief absence. Its an older book, but I thought it held up.
Profile Image for Carol.
537 reviews53 followers
August 10, 2014
I wish I could give it 5 stars but, while the story line is great, the author's technical skills don't live up to the promise.

Lucien is a thirty-something modernist architect (think Gropius or Le Corbusier) in 1942 Paris, France. Like others of his skill-set, Lucien is struggling financially. His marriage is childless and crumbling as well. Into his life walks uber-wealthy industrialist Auguste Manet with an offer. Build Manet a "priest hole" (an undiscoverable hiding place)in an apartment for a wealthy Jewish friend and Lucien will receive a commission for a new munitions factory from Manet (and for the Nazis). One "priest hole" leads to many and additional factories. The money is very good and much needed. How Lucien interacts with all the various characters is entertaining but not well executed.

Where this novel has some weakness is around the protagonist's change of motivation and the sudden appearance of a moral compass. He becomes far more than an accomplice in the Jewish rescue effort after a point of crisis in the story. I think that this conversion would have been easier to accept if his character had been a bit stronger from the beginning. It's a little hard to accept the reversal of feeling from someone who has previously been presented as the ultimate opportunist and self-justifier. Some readers might also find the book's conclusion hard to swallow as it veers strongly off in the direction of pulp historic fiction (in my opinion, at least).

The vernacular of the period seems a bit off – I'm just not sure people used today's idioms 80 years ago. There were times that the dialogue was quite jarring considering the subject matter – as though the author was reaching for humor at the wrong moment.

In any event, "The Paris Architect" has its strengths (the historic storyline) and provides some interesting moments, particularly in its evoking of the time and place. If you are a WWII buff you might well find this aspect of the war intriguing. I cautiously (with reservations) recommend this book.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,692 reviews14.1k followers
October 7, 2013
2.5 When this story begins Lucien is on his way to what he thinks will be an architecture job, one that will be prominent enough to enhance his reputation for the future. The Nazi& have taken control of Paris, Jews are being rounded up and sent to the camps, there are food shortages, ordinary Parisians are in fear of their lives and co-operate with the Germans superficially, while secretly hating them and what they stand for. The beginning was strong, the discussion and details of architecture are impeccable and any conversations having to do with these subjects are natural. The author is an architect so this is as to be expected.

The characters though are for the most part not likable or I just could not relate to them in a way that made me really care what happened to them. Lucien's mistress and anything to do with her I dislike immensely and wished it had not been part of the story. The prose itself, except for the aforementioned parts is just okay, uneven at times, almost awkward at others. Wanted to like this more than I did but felt it was worth reading if just for the detailed descriptions of architecture, that part was most interesting.

ARC from NetGalley.
Profile Image for thewanderingjew.
1,504 reviews19 followers
December 4, 2013
From the first word heard on this audio, I was a prisoner. I think the story held me more rapt than the reader; it moved along quickly, and totally consumed me. I never turned it off, until the end. It is about unlikely heroes, who rose above their own expectations, and it is about traitors, by design, as well as those who became quasi-traitors, those tortured into confessions to avoid more pain. It is about the German effort to seek out and find the hidden Jews in order to steal their wealth.
It is about the Holocaust, in that it takes place during the year 1942, in Paris, France. Without dwelling on the concentration camps, it painted an accurate picture of the brutality that was commonplace during the German occupation, and it was sometimes really hard to take it all in. Belfoure truly creates the fear and tension of the moment, and the reader will feel it, as well, experiencing and understanding the reactions of each of the characters, the “good, the bad and the evil”, when faced with terrifying prospects.
The extraordinary strength and courage of some and the mind-boggling weakness and sadism of others, join together on the page to expose the heroism and self-sacrifice of one group, as it lays bare the incomparable cruelty of the other. It is a book about people placed in an untenable situation by circumstances beyond their control, and the madness that infects those who are mainly concerned with their own self-preservation. It is about the difficult choices of the citizens; how could they resist and survive, did they have to acquiesce in order not to be tortured and killed, were they brave or cowards, could they have behaved otherwise? It is about the decisions made by those in the resistance to save some, while sacrificing others for the greater good of their cause, juxtaposed against the choices of those in the Gestapo who didn’t care about saving anyone but themselves, who murdered indiscriminately, for Hitler. It is about how these warring factions coexisted under the most extreme conditions in Paris, during the German Occupation.
A question arises throughout the book that is insoluble even today. How do educated, sophisticated, family men, and even otherwise moral men, commit such sins against humanity. How is such behavior justified in the mind of a person with any common sense? Was the depravity of the German behavior simply the madness of some, or were the far reaching effects more a symbol of a world gone mad, an entire world with a diseased mind? I asked myself again and again, could this happen once more? Could someone’s unhappiness and greed, envy and hate, become so strong again that the reasonable answer to their pain becomes the extinction of an entire group of people, becomes the panacea for all their troubles?
Fear is a motivating factor that changes us all. How would we have behaved? We all probably hope that we would have been strong and would have behaved better than the collaborators, better than those who turned their backs on, and a blind eye to, the suffering of others, even as their neighbors and friends disappeared. Schadenfreude was the word of those times; many relished in the pain of the “others”.
Lucien, an architect, was raised to be anti-Semitic by a hateful parent. His life was steadily going downhill under the German occupation, but then he met the very wealthy Monsieur Manet, who offered him a job. He is hired to build hiding places, in various places, in order to save the Jews. At the same time, he is also hired to build factories that produce weapons for the German war effort. Manet believes this is the only way to maintain ownership of his factories and help the Jews to escape. Lucien does not see himself as a collaborator. Is he a collaborator, is Manet?
Pierre is a twelve year old child who is the lone survivor of the round up of his parents, siblings and the people who sheltered him; he grows up quickly and becomes a man in a surprising way. Is he a murderer or a hero?
Adele is a wily, hateful kind of person who easily fraternizes with the enemy for her own benefit. Does she have any redeeming qualities? Her associate, Bette, surprises herself with her maternal instinct, and she changes, as events force her to make uncomfortable decisions.
Herzog, befriends Lucien. He had wanted to become an architect like Lucien, but his father prevented it. He discovers another side of himself, as he witnesses barbarism for the sake of barbarism alone, barbarism simply because these acts of atrocity could be committed by those who actually enjoyed inflicting the pain, and there was no one to stop them, barbarism that destroyed simply for the sake of the destruction itself. Yet, even this lone “quasi-good German” soldier justifies his own cruel behavior by declaring himself a loyal German to the Fatherland.
All of the characters are so real that as they experience life, the reader will experience it along with them. The author has done a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the time period, the naïveté of some of the people, Jews and gentiles alike, the senselessness of the savage behavior, as people used each other and betrayed each other, the fear that everyone had for their own personal safety, the constant state of panic that reigned under Hitler’s rule as he and his minions preyed on the weaknesses of the people, and he also illuminated the courage that people found within themselves against all odds. The book is about compassionate, self-sacrificing, righteous people, and their converse, the vulgar, immoral, self-serving, sinful people who supported The Third Reich.

Profile Image for JanB .
1,126 reviews2,285 followers
July 4, 2015
Lucien, an architect, is hired to design hiding places for Jews in occupied France during WWII. At the same time, he’s also designing factories for the Germans. The overriding attitude among the French toward the Jews wasn’t glossed over, nor was the moral dilemma facing the French people. Seeing the growth and transformation of Lucien gave the story depth, while the historical detail, setting, and well-developed characters made the story come to life.

The concept is an interesting one, but what really sets this novel apart is the level of suspense and tension. I had difficulty putting it down and was on the edge of my seat much of the time. There were a few too many coincidences that were unconvincing but those are minor criticisms in this well paced, suspenseful novel.
Profile Image for Pam Jenoff.
Author 26 books5,051 followers
November 17, 2016
I loved this original, fresh take on World War II. It tells of an architect who, despite his best attempts to remain univolved, finds himself using his unique talents to build structures that can hide Jews from the Germans. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for La Crosse County Library.
549 reviews133 followers
June 7, 2022
Review originally published April 2014

If you enjoy historical fiction, The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure is well worth the read time, which will be brief because it’s a page turner. It’s 1942 in German occupied Paris, and for architect Lucien Bernard, the question of survival takes a turn when he must confront his willingness to risk his life for people he doesn’t even know and for a cause he doesn’t believe in. Lucien very talented but is also greedy and unlikeable with little compassion, which makes him perfect for the job.

When a rich businessman persuades Lucien to adapt an apartment to create a hiding place for a wealthy Jew, he takes it as a challenge. Tensions rise as he gets drawn deeply into the plans of both the occupiers and the Resistance. After one careless mistake results in tragedy, Lucien is fueled to reevaluate his life.

The writer does an excellent job of reminding the readers of the horrors that were very present at that time. The constant fear of the Parisians and the brutality that the Jews faced are palpable. Food is scarce, black market goods are costly, and neighbors don’t hesitate to rat one another out to save their own hides! Given the torture inflicted by the Nazis, you can hardly place blame.

The architectural references are interesting, and they draw from the fact that the author is an architect by profession. This is a debut novel for Belfoure, and I would not be surprised to see more of his writing. I might mention that the cover art is very intriguing as well: a small child peeking out of a small space, and you can clearly see the gold star sewn on her shirt.

It’s hard to describe this book as enjoyable because the subject matter is so disturbing, painful, and unenjoyable. I feel as if I am paying homage to the victims by reading this genre. The events of the Holocaust should never be forgotten or go untaught. When you consider that all the victims and perpetrators surrounding the Holocaust will soon be gone, it is even more imperative that we keep this part of history alive.

See also:

Other books on the subject you may find interesting are:

Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl
Sophie’s Choice
Schindler’s List
The Boy With the Striped Pajamas
The Book Thief
The Pianist
The Reader

Just to name a small few!

All of these books and many more on the subject can be found at your local library.

Copies of The Paris Architect can be found in any of our La Crosse County library locations at Onalaska, Holmen, Bangor, Campbell, and West Salem, which are all a part of the Winding Rivers Library System. The book comes in regular print, audio CD, and e-book. Please check out our website at www.lacrossecountylibrary.org for catalog resources or for upcoming programming schedules. You can find us on Facebook as well!

Find this book and other titles within our catalog.
Profile Image for Lance Charnes.
Author 7 books89 followers
April 9, 2022
Architecture (unlike, say, structural engineering) rarely packs with it life-or-death stakes. Bad designs can be salvaged with good engineering, and vice versa. In The Paris Architect, however, the quality of an architect's work can lead to deadly consequences not only for the people who use it, but for the architect and everyone around him.

Lucien Bernard is a struggling architect in a Paris that's spent a year under the Nazi boot heel when we meet him. To be kind, he's a piece of work -- a vain, snobbish, racist philanderer with a developing persecution complex. When megawealthy industrialist Manet (not the painter) offers him an outlandish amount of money to build a hiding space for a fugitive Jew in an opulent apartment, Bernard has to carefully weigh the offer. On the one hand, it's a lot of money, he hasn't been working, and his wife's savings are diving toward zero; on the other hand, it's for Jews (remember the racist part) and helping Jews in Nazi-occupied France could mean a quick one-way trip to a concentration camp or a quicker execution in the street. Needless to say, Bernard chooses to do the right thing (design the hiding space) for the wrong reasons (enough money to buy nice things for his mistress). Also needless to say, this isn't the last time he'll be called on to do this, and there will be consequences.

First, the good parts. Overall, it's a good story. The author either did a lot of research into occupied Paris himself or stole all of Alan Furst's research; he captures the many small and large indignities the Germans imposed on the French in a way that's organic to the plot rather than plunking reams of exposition into the narrative. His descriptions of places (and especially interior spaces) are sketched well and, when coming from Bernard, seem appropriate for someone of his profession without inundating us with architect-speak. (This was a skill the author also used to good effect in The Fallen Architect: A Novel , which I liked pretty well.) Bernard's solutions to the hideout puzzles are clever and feel authentic, even if the actual execution seems to happen in far too little time. The narrative is clear and would read quickly in print. The author doesn't shy away from having his characters voice opinions that would've been unremarkable in 1941 but are completely reprehensible today.

However, the narrative has to carry the load of a pack of shortcomings.

Kudos to the author for creating a very unlikable hero. It's a fine balancing act; the protagonist can be a true rotter but has to be interesting enough to overcome the ick factor long enough to reform him/her or kill him/her off in Act Three. In that Bernard is a fairly run-of-the-mill petit bourgeois who rarely misses an opportunity to say or do something weaselly until late in Act Two, the author didn't stick this landing. Bernard's motivations are fairly easy to accept in the context of his general lack of moral fiber (at least until his late-inning redemption). Unfortunately, they don't make him especially interesting.

Something I've complained about in other WWII thrillers is that the authors portray the German characters as being totally cynical or dismissive of the Nazis. This usually lets the hero or heroine avoid having to deal with someone who has a completely different belief system. That's not a problem here -- there are several prominent characters who are Gestapo agents and definitely dyed-in-the-wool Nazis. The author goes one step further by extensively detailing these characters' work practices. This not only becomes repetitive but descends at times into torture porn. A little goes a long way here.

Other characterization tics aren't unique to this book but are annoying. For instance, every woman in the story is beautiful, even the seventy-year-olds. Most of the men are handsome, including the Nazis. At least two of the characters spend some time looking in their mirrors and describing what they see. All the fugitive Jews we see at any length are fabulously wealthy, ostensibly the reason Our Villains are chasing them but also confirming the Parisians' belief that all Jews are, well, money-grubbers. Finally, a significant German character undergoes a major personality change at the end that is a few steps too far even for his arc.

One further problem is unique to the audiobook edition. The narrator does a serviceable job on the narrative. However, every character has an accent, even when they're speaking in their native language...and the narrator just isn't all that great with accents. His French and German accents tend to smear into each other (making it hard to figure out who's speaking when the dialog isn't tagged) and the French characters' accents tend to change from chapter to chapter. This weakness accentuates the other characterization problems, not that they need the help.

The Paris Architect is a good story laboring under writing issues that should've been ironed out in editing. The Fallen Architect proves the author can write; this one seems to imply that he needs a strong editor and a much better audiobook producer. That's a shame. I was primed to like this book and came away disappointed. As Bernard would say, c'est la vie.
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