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The Paris Library

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Paris, 1939. Odile Souchet is obsessed with books and the Dewey Decimal System, which makes order out of chaos. She soon has it all – a handsome police officer beau, an English best friend, a beloved twin, and a job at the American Library in Paris, a thriving community of students, writers, diplomats, and book lovers. Yet when war is declared, there's also a war on words.

Montana, 1983. Widowed and alone, Odile suffers the solitary confinement of small-town life. Though most adults are cowed by her, the neighbor girl will not let her be. Lily, a lonely teenager yearning to break free of Froid is obsessed by the older French woman who lives next door and wants to know her secrets.

As the two become friends, Odile sees herself in Lily – the same love of language, the same longings, the same lethal jealousy. The Paris Library’s dual narratives explore the relationships that make us who we are – family and friends, first loves and favorite authors – in the fairy tale setting of the City of Light. It also explores the geography of resentment, the consequences of unspeakable betrayal, and what happens when the people we count on for understanding and protection fail us.

The wit, empathy, and deep research that brings The Paris Library to life also brings to light a cast of lively historical characters and a little-known chapter of World War II history: the story of the American librarian, Miss Reeder, who created the Soldiers’ Service to deliver books to servicemen, and who later faced the Nazi ‘Book Protector’ in order to keep her library open. She and her colleagues defied the Bibliotheksschutz by delivering books to Jewish readers after they were forbidden from entering the library.

358 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 9, 2021

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About the author

Janet Skeslien Charles

6 books1,375 followers
Janet Skeslien Charles divides her time between Paris and Montana. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with family.

The backdrop of her debut novel MOONLIGHT IN ODESSA is the booming business of email-order brides, an industry where love and marriage meet sex and commerce.

Her second novel THE PARIS LIBRARY is based on the true story of the courageous librarians at the American Library in Paris during World War II. Janet learned about the story when she worked at the Library.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,159 reviews
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,109 reviews2,797 followers
May 17, 2023
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

This was such an enjoyable story and led me to research more about the American Library in Paris. The story starts in 1939 Paris, as we follow twenty year old librarian Odile Souchet. Odile's father is a police chief and when the Nazis arrive in Paris, he is tasked with following through on all the letters identifying the persecuted people of the time. Odile's brother has joined the war, despite being so very unsuited for physical activity, while Odile's police officer boyfriend gripes about having to do chores for the Nazis. As hard as things are for Odile and her family, they are so much better off than most of the people in the area. 

The American Library of Paris is under attack also. Library subscribers are banned from the library due to their heritage or because they are deemed enemy aliens. Most of these people are carted off to detention camps or worse. Long lists of books are banned or confiscated. The library is under surveillance by spies and it's people are reported anonymously to the police or Nazis. For the next years of the war, Odile, her coworkers, and volunteers work to save the books and to carry books to those who are banned from entering the library. 

In 1983 Montana, we meet Odile again, widowed, alone, isolated from others except for her attendance at church. Teenage Lily lives next door to Odile and she is going through a horror of her own, as her mother is dying and later as her father remarries. Odile and Lily strike up a wonderful friendship as Odile teaches Lily French and they become true friends, despite their age difference. But Lily wants to know more about Odile's past, why she didn't marry her policeman boyfriend, why she seems so closed off from the people of her past, what she is not telling Lily, as she relates her stories of the war. 

These two timelines interweave with each other and I enjoyed both timelines equally. I think it is Odile that allows me to enjoy both so much because we still see the younger Odile behind her older self, holding on to fears and great regrets that have a chokehold on her life in the present. Odile wants to teach Lily not to make the same mistakes she did but until both Odile and Lily see the past more clearly, mistakes will continue to be made. 

I loved learning about the American Library in Paris, through this story. This is true historical fiction with most of the library workers and patrons being real life people, who risked their lives to help each other and to save the library and books as best that they could. They were the library Resistance fighters of their day and the ugliness of that time is evident throughout the book. 

***In case you are interested in the books that are mentioned in The Paris Library, there is an interesting blog that discusses the books. Be sure to read both the blog and the comments.


Publication: February 9, 2021

Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for this ARC.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,285 reviews2,205 followers
October 1, 2020
I thought this would be a relevant one to read during Banned Book Week, and it was, but it’s about more than banned books. It’s about people affected by the Nazi occupation of France, how the Librarians and other staff at the American Library of Paris tried to save some of their patrons as well as preserve their right to read by delivering books to their Jewish subscribers who were no longer allowed by the Nazis to use the library. I was compelled to read some about the history of ALP and discovered in those articles as well as in the author’s note that some of the characters in this novel are based on real people. In the novel, Dorothy Reeder (a wonderful sounding name for a Librarian) who is the director of the Library was the director of the actual ALP from 1936-1941. I was so impressed how accurate this novel reflected the history. A program to send books to soldiers was also implemented. It’s also about the power of friendship.

I’m drawn to stories about WWII and the Holocaust and as a retired Librarian, this was a perfect read for me. The novel is written with a commonly used mechanism telling the story in two time frames, linking the past with a present or near present time. Odile in the current time frame of the early 1980’s is the recluse neighbor of a young girl, Lily, in Froid, Montana. It’s a lovely story of how these two become unlikely friends when Odile helps Lily get through a tough time of loss and change in her life, with heart, wisdom, love of reading and teaching her to speak French. The alternating past story covers Odile’s life and work as a Librarian at the ALP. It is in these past chapters that the reader is introduced to the wonderful place that the Library was, the Nazi occupation, the courageous and commendable work of these Librarians. It’s also Odile’s personal story of love and loss. While we don’t necessarily see the horrors of the death camps front and center on the pages, there is loss and death close to these characters. While I enjoyed the past time frame of the story a bit more, with some wonderful characters both real and imagined, there is a lovely connection between these two characters in the current story and we never know until the end just how much this friendship meant to both of them.

Some may think that the loss of books or the loss of one’s ability to access books is not comparable to the loss of six million Jews in the Holocaust and of course it isn’t, but it’s stealing a part of who people are, their society and culture. Something that the real Dorothy Reeder says made me realize how important their work was. In May 1940, just weeks before the fall of France, Reeder reflected: “More and more I realize my responsibility to guard our library. It stands as a symbol of freedom and understanding, of service to all, a fine piece of democracy.”
(We’ll Always Have the American Library in Paris”
By Leonard Kniffel | American Libraries Magazine, May 1, 2020

“After the darkness of war, the light of books.” (ALP’s motto)

ARC was provided by Atria Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :).
991 reviews2,766 followers
February 2, 2021

Historical fiction is my favorite genre. I search out novels that are set about, in or around books, libraries, book stores etc.

The novel is set during dual timelines, one in the past in 1939 through 1944 and the other in the more current time of 1983-1989.

The first timeline is set in Paris around 1939,as we follow Odelie through the years. She first starting work at the American Library in Paris and then continued through the years of Nazi occupation in Paris. This was definitely the most interesting part of the novel, learning how the librarians continued to support their Jewish subscribers by delivering books to them since they could no longer use the library. They also sent boxes with books to soldiers that they could reach who were entrenched in the war effort. I didn’t feel the need for the romance between Odelie and Paul and their afternoon trysts in abandoned apartments i.e. “Paul kissed my hands, my cheeks, my lips. I wanted more. His skin on mine, our bodies entwined”, it felt as though I was reading romance. I didn’t think that this really added to the story and just took away from the seriousness of the subject. I would have liked more details about life in Paris under the occupation, not just how it affected the library.

The second timeline involves Lily, a high school student who has decided to try to interview their older French neighbor, Odelie, for a school project. Odelie keeps to herself most of the time. When Lily approaches her for an interview she is surprised that Odelie is going to grant her the interview. It seems that Odelie sees a lot of herself in Lily “ the same love of language, the same longings, the same lethal jealousy “. Lily learns a lot about how things were during the war for the Parisians involved with the library, how some were forced to leave after the occupation and how they continued to serve their subscribers. At one point however Lily and her best friend invade Odelie’s privacy and find letters that they don’t understand the meaning of. They are interrupted in their rummaging by Odelie who had returned to her home and discovered the girls there. Everything changes after that.

I really enjoyed the author’s notes and learned that many of the characters in the story were real people and the events actually occurred. The author worked as the programs manager at the American Library in Paris in 2019. She was told the story of what occurred during the occupation and spoke to members of the families of some of the characters. It is obvious that much research was done in writing this book.

I did feel that at times the novel moved slowly and I think it would have been a stronger book without the second story line involving Lily. I found myself rushing through those chapters to get back to what I considered the “main story” presented in this novel.

Overall I still really enjoyed this novel and can recommend it to lovers of historical fiction.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher.
New release date 2/2/2021
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
April 14, 2021

100 days into 2021 and 100 books have been read. Check out my latest BookTube Video to see which ones are my fave!
The Written Review

I loved Paris, a city with secrets. Like book covers, some leather, some cloth, each Parisian door led to an unexpected world.
We follow Odile Souchet as she applies to be a librarian in an English-speaking library in Paris, 1939.

She quickly falls in love with a police officer beau, finds a new friend among the library's patrons and thrives on the challenge, and is finding her purpose by serving the community.

But then, the unthinkable happens.

War is declared. And then it comes to her library.

Odile wants nothing more to continue working with the patrons, finding them books and living peacefully but as the Nazi regulations are put into place, she finds it more and more difficult to stay out of the situation.

And we also follow Odile in 1983 as she lives in a small town in Montana - widowed and isolated.

The small town sees Odile as an outsider and she truly feels the isolation. But then, the little neighbor girl knocks on her door.

Lily, a lonely girl, is trying to escape from her own situation.
Dad and I hovered at the side of Mom's hospital bed. She tried to smile but her lips just quivered.
The two lost souls find solace in each other, and soon a grandmother-granddaughter relationship begins to form.
I was skeptical about soulmates, but could believe in bookmates, two beings bound by a passion for reading.
I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I'm not normally one for war books and war books riddled with flashbacks and flashforwards.

The two stories felt fairly balanced. I was a little more drawn to the "modern" day one (with Lily in it) but overall, it worked pretty well.

I loved the aspect of the library and how Odile's world was so carefully built (only for it to come crashing down).

The pacing of the book felt a bit slow...and yet it was the kind of slow that I enjoyed. I loved the details, the attention to various aspects of the 1900s and the whole immersion experience.

All in all, I was really entranced by this book and the ending was the crescendo that I was waiting for.

A huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada and Janet Skeslien Charles for sending me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Tina Loves To Read.
2,453 reviews1 follower
March 13, 2023
This is a historical fiction that takes place during WWII in Paris, France. I have to say my feelings about this book is different from most peoples, but this is how I feel about the book. I really had high hopes for this book, and it let me down. The beginning (or first 40% of the book) was very slow moving and some parts I do not think needed to be in the book. I hated the first part of this book. I think after getting through the first 40% of the book made me just feel the last part of the book just ok. I have read a lot of historical fiction books that takes place in WWII, and this one was nothing special. I like a historical fiction book to really be hard hitting and touch my heart, and this one did not do that. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (Atria Books) or author (Janet Skeslien Charles) via NetGalley, so I can give honest review about how I feel about this book. I want to send a big Thank you to them for that.
Profile Image for Swrp.
662 reviews
April 1, 2021
"based on a true Second World War story of the heroic librarians..."

Set in two different time periods, The Paris Library is a well-written and engaging read. The book follows the experiences of Odile, a librarian and Lily, a high school student.

To start with much of the book is about the importance of books, the power of literature, the value of libraries and, above-all, the wonderful profession of being a Librarian. This itself is a good enough reason for all book lovers to read this book.

The American Library in Paris (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America...).

The content and thoughts about books, libraries and librarians is very much as I feel and think about them:

"Breathing in the best smell in the world - a melange of the mossy scent of musty books and crisp newspaper pages - I felt as if I'd come home."

“I loved being surrounded by stories, some as old as time, others published just last month.”

“I never judged a book by its beginning. It felt like the first and last date I`d once had, both of us smiling too brightly. No, I opened to a page in the middle, where the author wasn`t trying to impress me.”

“It was why I read – to glimpse other lives.”

“But seriously, why books. Because no other thing possesses that mystical faculty to make people see with other people`s eyes. The Library is a bridge of books between cultures.”

“Libraries are lungs. Books the fresh air breathed in to keep the heart beating, to keep the brain imagining, to keep hope alive.”

“Books and ideas are like blood; they need to circulate, and they keep us alive.”

“A better question to ask is what can we do now to ensure that libraries and learning are accessible to all and that we treat people with dignity and compassion.”

Now, for some people, in order to make the book `interesting` maybe it is required to include some drama, romance, et cetera. Also, maybe, these are needed for a book to be commercially successful. But, for me, the content and elements about the books, libraries and librarians were more than enough! Everything else, kind of, felt unneeded, out of the context and like loose ends.

The characters in this book:

“Her hand hugging me, she introduced her cast of characters. Dear Maman and down-to-earth Eugenie. Blustery Papa. Remy, the mischievous twin I would see every time I looked at Odile. His girl, Bitsi, the brave librarian. Paul, so handsome, I fell in love with him, too. Margaret, every bit as fun as Mary Louise. Miss Reader, the Countess, and Boris, the heart and soul and life of the Library. People I would never know, would never forget. They`d lived in Odile`s memory, and now they lived in mine.”
- Lily, Froid Montana 1983

Few interesting quotes from The Paris Library:


Life`s a brawl. You must fight for what you want.

It was important for her to leave a place better than we found it.

People are awkward, they don`t always know what to do or say. Don`t hold it against them. You never know what`s in their hearts.

Soup teaches patience.

It takes just a few ingredients to make a healthy meal, yet industrial food companies have Americans convinced there`s no time to cook. You eat bland soup from a can, even though leeks browned with butter taste like heaven.

She knew that God tore down the old world every evening and built a new one by sun up.

You`re nothing without principles. Nowhere without ideals. No one without courage.

Love is accepting someone, all parts of them, even the ones you don`t like or understand.

But… you always know the right things to say. Because I`ve said so many wrong things.

Don`t listen when someone tells you not to bother a person – reach out to make a friend. People don`t know what to do or say. Try not to hold that against them; you never know what`s in their heart. Don`t be afraid to be different. Stand your ground. During bad times, remember that nothing lasts forever. Accept people for who they are, not for who you want them to be. Try to put yourself in their shoes.

"Atrum post bellum, ex libris lux.
After the darkness of war, the light of books."
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,601 reviews24.8k followers
April 14, 2020
Janet Skeslien Charles writes an intriguing blend of well researched fact and fiction focusing on the experience of the established American Library in Paris amidst the background of the Nazi occupation during WW2. It follows the experiences of the young, ambitious librarian, Odile Souchet, with the library supporting its subscribers, including Jews, and soldiers. The Library is not left untouched by the occupation, a target for the Nazis. The story covers Odile's wartime experiences, such as those with her family, she is close to her brother, Remy, who has joined the war efforts, her worries for him, hoping that he will return safe and sound. There are the many wide ranging and disparate subscribers, the staff and volunteers, the joys of seeing the right book find the right reader at the right time.

Odile has a romantic relationship with Paul, a policeman, as she finds herself willing to do whatever it takes to save the library, joining the Resistance in its myriad forms. Never was the power of books and reading so desperately needed, in the bleakest, dangerous, hardest and darkest of times, and all the horrors that it entailed. We follow what happens with Odile, her colleagues and friends, trying to save lives and the library, the below the radar deliveries to Jews, going expressly against Nazi orders. There are challenges, obstacles, deception and the shock of betrayal. In 1983 in Montana, teenage high school student, Lily, has recently suffered the loss of her mother, whilst her father has remarried. Griefsticken, lonely and struggling to fit in, Lily becomes close to her elderly French neighbour, Odile, and interviews for a school project. Odile sees that she has much in common with Lily, their relationship culminating in the surprising revelation of a past secret that connects them.

This is a fascinating and illuminating glimpse of WW2 history and the terrifying nightmare devastation of the war, viewed through the unusual perspective and role of the American Library in Paris. It was wonderful to read of the courageous librarians, fighting the good fight through books, knowingly resisting the Nazis, aware they faced death and prison if discovered. This is a brilliant read, of loss, betrayal, hope and the power of friendship. Many thanks to John Murray Press for an ARC.
Profile Image for Christine on hiatus, see “About me”.
589 reviews1,137 followers
February 12, 2021
Though I am starting to back off on historical novels set during WWII, I picked this book as it appeared to offer something different. The story has dual timelines with our protagonist, Odile, heavily featured in both. During WWII, Odile works at the American Library in Paris (a real institution). The later timeline takes place in the mid to late 1980s in Montana. I enjoyed both timelines equally. The best feature of the WWII period is the library setting. I love the references to the Dewey decimal system and to specific books. Seeing the war from the perspective of the library and its patrons and employees is also fresh and enlightening. The Montana period is special because of the inclusion of young Lily and her role in helping Odile heal from her difficult life. In turn, Odile supports Lily as the latter struggles “to belong.”

The story focuses more on the characters than the war (OK with me) and showcases themes of deep disappointment, loss, hope, healing, and the power of friendship. The author did a great deal of research for the book; make sure you read the author’s note at the end. One of the things I look most forward to in the WWII historical fiction novels is the Author’s Note. My only knock is that the end was rushed in my opinion. I would have liked “another 10%” to be devoted to Odile’s relationship with Buck and Marc and a bit more detail on Lily’s future. Back to the Author’s Note—it did serve as a great epilogue for some of the characters who we find out were actually real people.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this novel and recommend it to all fans of historical fiction, especially those who like character-driven novels.

Many thanks to Atria Books, through Net Galley and Janet Skeslien Charles, for the invitation to read an ARC of this novel. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,005 reviews36k followers
February 11, 2021
Audiobook...library overdrive..
alternated with the
physical book... (I own it)

I’ve been sitting here debating whether or not to write a review at all.
I suppose I’ll start with a personal share.

I’m getting pretty close to retiring from writing reviews.
I’ll write a review when I accept a book from Netgalley ...(it’s kinda our deal arrangement)....
but a decade of writing reviews is about enough for me.

My brain is tired.
I don’t want to write reviews as often as I did last year. The pattern will continue unless I consciously stop it.

I’m a natural chatterbox and love connecting with others authentically in this community.
But.... cutting back on writing reviews is simply something I would like to unhook from.

As soon as I complete my 2nd vaccine, coming, soon....
with enough allotment safe time having gone by -
I want enjoy the company of our close friends, family, and do more traveling.
I don’t want to have any read/review agreements hanging over my head for anyone.

This past year, the majority of books that excited me ‘most’ often were nonfiction: ( an unforeseen change -surprisingly-even memoirs). I’m a fiction reader at heart...
with the world changing, I’ve become more aware of my responsibility to be pro active in all areas of justice. I naturally have gravitated more to non-fiction.

So....about ‘THIS’ book - the beginning of my ‘no reviewing’ review.
As a Jewish woman - a fairly committed dedicated Holocaust reader....
I’m tired of World War II books that dramatize romance, family strife— mixed with coming of age characters.
I’m tired of moving through the years.

I don’t want to be a mean reviewer.
It’s not an author’s fault when I’m burned out on Historical fiction that feels like every other book I’ve read.

Yes - I learned new history in this book - but nothing was totally unfamiliar.

I’m also ‘over’ it with duel timelines.
“The Paris Library” ... is many things I’m tired of....
Starting with:
“Based on the true WWII story of the heroic librarians of the American library in Paris”....
Most great WWII stories are inspired by truth!!!

So in the spirit of
NOT REVIEWING reviews...
I’ll say a few more things.....
Years ago I would’ve absolutely love this book in the same way I did “Sarah’s Key”, by Tatiana de Rodney...

I am a book lover and I appreciate rich historical elements....
but maybe not all the time.

In the Paris library, [a refugee sanctuary for many]- books, and Jewish people belonged to each other!!
So— what’s not to like?
Nothing really... but... this was just a ‘so-so’ overall read for me.
The impeachment trial keeps pulling my focus.

That said....
Our two Librarians -
Odile and Lily were a perfect match for each other ...
They each fit a need to one another. Both courageous women.

We get family background during the war in 1939...(Paris)...and we get a modern story in 1983...(Montana)

“The Paris Library” was carefully and respectively research —written well....
There were charming moments. There were unspeakable betrayals.
The authors notes were moving.

Many readers will love this book. Read other lovely reviews.

Today... given my own Meshuggah ways...
Its only a 3-star truthful rating.
Profile Image for Thomas.
727 reviews175 followers
December 9, 2020
4.5 shining stars rounded down for a story of love, betrayal, sadness, courage and coming of age, all wrapped up in one book. This book is based on actual events in Paris during WWII. The American Library in Paris remained open during the German occupation. Heroic librarians did deliver books to Jewish subscribers as depicted in the book.
The book opens with Odile Souchet applying for a job at the American Library in Paris. It is February, 1939. She is hired for the job of her dreams. She loves books and has memorized the Dewey Decimal system. Odile's father is a Paris Police supervisor and brings to Sunday dinners a procession of prospective suitors, until Paul, who wins her heart. But then war comes and Odile's brother Remy joins the army.
The book is told in two time frames: Paris, from 1939-1944 and Froid, Montana, US, from 1983 to 1984. In 1983 Odile is now the widow of Buck Gustafson, a American soldier that she met in Paris. Young Lily is a lonely teenager looking for something beyond the boredom of living in a remote small town in Montana. She decides to interview Mrs. Gustafson for a school report.
This begins a friendship that teaches Lily the French language and so much more about life, love and friendship.
My wife read this book before me also thoroughly enjoyed it.
Odile's father: "Like the turkey Maman trussed and sprinkled with parsley, Papa presented each one on a platter: 'Marc has never missed a day of work, not even when he had the flu."
Odile on love; "I had learned that love was not patient, love was not kind. Love was conditional. The people closest to you could turn their backs on you, saying goodbye for something that seemed like nothing. You could only depend on yourself."
Thanks to Atria Books for sending me this eARC through NetGalley.
October 12, 2020
I have been disappointed in the historical fiction genre for a time, But this book has ended that disappointment. It was superb in every sense and one in which the author was able to blend fact and fiction flawlessly.

Taking us once again to Paris during the war, we meet a cast of characters who knew and espoused the idea that books are the answer to the ills of people who suffer. The American Library of Paris, like so many things was gravely affected during the wars. From books being banned, to people being denied access because of their backgrounds and what they believed, this library was able to survive and bring hope to his patrons.

The author reminds us of the way in which fascism worked. How it eliminates those ideas, those concepts, and those books which they feel are a challenge to what fascists espouse. For so many of us, the library has been a place of refuge, a place to escape the ills of the world and escape into a world where peace and words exist side by side.

Odile Souchethas found that perfect job, that of a librarian in the American Library of Paris. She and her coworkers are lovers of books, and through them the library and its patrons, including those who were banned, are able to find solace. These people become part of their own Resistance by seeing that books stayed a part of the way forward.

Years later, living in America, Odile comes to meet and counsel Lily, a young teenager who is unhappy and feels cut apart from life and love. Through their blossoming friendship, Lily learns of Odile's life, her struggles, and her strength. From Odile, Lily learns the meaning of courage and the ability to realize that everyone carries burdens some of which are harder than others.

This marvelous story comes highly recommended for both teaching us a piece of history not well known as well as presenting a story of bravery and the will to carry on even with adversity nipping at one's heels.

Thank you to Janet, Skeslien Charles, Atria Books, and NetGalley for this enlightening and poignant story, due out February 2, 2021.
Profile Image for Annette.
765 reviews337 followers
February 7, 2020
This story brings “a little-known chapter of WWII history: the story of the American librarian, Miss Reeder, who created the Soldiers’ Service to deliver books to servicemen, and who later faced the Nazi ‘Book Protector’ in order to keep her library open. She and her colleagues defied the Bibliotheksschutz by delivering books to Jewish readers after they were forbidden from entering the library.”

Montana, 1983. Lily, a lonely teenager, is working on a school project, a report on France. She goes to her French neighbor Mrs. Gustafson to interview her for the report. Mrs. Gustafson is defined as the epitome of solitude. And what starts as a school project, turns into a heartfelt relationship. As the relationship deepens, Lily starts wondering about certain things about Odile’s life in Paris.

Paris, 1939. Odile Gustafson has just started working as a librarian at the American Library.

When England and France declare war on Germany, requests for magazines and books from soldiers pour in. The library gets busy with fulfilling those requests.

Once, the Nazis occupy Paris, Miss Reeder, the Library Directress, realizes that churches and libraries will not be spared as she previously hoped. Certain people and books are not allowed in the library. Thus, an idea of smuggling books to Jewish subscribers springs up. But there are checkpoints everywhere, thus carrying something suspicious puts one in danger.

Then, the crow letters, most unsigned, informing on Jews, keep arriving at the police station. Deceit weaves its way into the story.

Loved the portrayal of Odile’s French family. They come through as very human, always criticizing father, depressed mother. The bond she has with her brother is very endearing.

Lily is also a very likeable character. Her tone is expressionless most of the time. She is not the most enthusiastic person, which reflects her loneliness. But her journey of discovering herself is engrossing.

Usually, I don’t like to read stories through the voice of a teenager, but there is something special about her and the relationship with Odile. When the story was unravelling in Paris for a longer time, I started to miss the present time story. “You came into my life like the evening star.”

Typically, I don’t like foreign words being mixed with English. But I actually enjoyed little lessons of French that Lily was getting from Odile. It makes so much more sense as in this case you know what you’re reading.

It’s also interesting to learn about Dewey Decimal number system. 813 (American) + 840 (French) + 302.34 (friendship) = 1955.34 (worthy books).

This book doesn’t detail the events of WWII. The purpose of this book is to shed light on the Library and its people who risked their lives to lift other people up.

I enjoyed the story and writing thoroughly, but if you enjoy more of a descriptive writing, then this book may not be the right fit for you.

Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
February 26, 2021
3.5 stars.

All book lovers will have a soft spot for this story.

This novel revolves around an entertaining and quirky cast of library loving characters. During WWII, several dedicated employees of the American Library in Paris worked diligently, and often secretly, to deliver books to those who could not make it in to the library. Soldiers stationed at various camps, elderly patrons, forbidden Jewish patrons. The employees made sure these passionate readers didn’t go without their beloved books to escape into. Books often brought comfort and a way of escaping the horrific and uncertain times they were facing.

I enjoyed learning about this piece of history. These heroic librarians took their jobs to a whole new level. I have much admiration for them as they risked their lives to provide a small piece of comfort to those who needed it.

The characters were charming and likeable. There were many touching, heartfelt moments. The setting was exquisite! I loved the library atmosphere - I felt like I was right there, roaming the stacks with the library staff. This is a lighter WWII story that lacked the heaviness and grit of the WWII historical fiction that I usually like to read. I was entertained from start to finish, however, it failed to fully pull me in with a true connection to the characters. There was a distance that kept me from feeling true emotional investment.

It was a “feel good” theme of bringing books to those who didn’t have access to them which I loved. Romance is a part of this storyline, but it wasn’t a main focus and didn’t overshadow the larger, more important themes which I appreciated.

Overall, this was an easy, entertaining, inspiring and “feel good” WWII story that I recommend to those who enjoy lighter historical fiction novels.

Thank you to NetGalley for my review copy!
Profile Image for Liz.
2,020 reviews2,525 followers
December 27, 2020
This book starts on a light note, a young Parisienne woman gets a job at the American Library in Paris. She quickly befriends a young English woman and finds love with a policeman. But it’s 1939 and war clouds are looming to the east.
Charles makes you feel a part of the library, taking me back to the days of the Dewey decimal system, citing lots of classic books. All of us who love books will recognize the comfort a library brings. I loved how Charles uses quotes from classic stories to bring home certain points.
As seems to be the norm with historical fiction, we have two timelines. The first, during the war and the second in the 1980s, with an older Odile who obviously married an American and moved to Montana. The second section is narrated by Lily, her young neighbor. “In Froid, she stuck out like a sore thumb, but maybe in Paris she was just an ordinary finger.”
For me, the mark of great historical fiction is that I learn new things. This book didn’t do that, probably because I’ve read so many WWII stories. But I totally enjoyed the characters and the story of perseverance. It’s an easy read and the story flows quickly. Charles does a good job setting the stage for both periods, and it was easy to imagine the scenes playing out. Yes, the earlier time period is more interesting than the latter, but the latter is necessary to bring home certain resolutions and to impart quite a few life lessons. Many of the characters existed in real life and the author’s note details how much of the book is based on true events.
My thanks to netgalley and Atria Books for an advance copy of this book.
Profile Image for Carole.
489 reviews109 followers
June 12, 2020
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles is a memorable account of life during World War II in Paris after the German invasion. In 1939 Odile is thrilled to be hired at the American Library in Paris (ALP). Her love of the written word soon makes her an important and respected member of staff. As the German soldiers take control, the library is in danger of being closed permanently, like so many others. This is the story of how library staff coped with years of foreign dominance while serving their subscribers. They were years of hardship, fear, terror, prejudice and survival of the human spirit. But it was also a time of love, friendship and kindness. These are the heroic lives of the librarians during a terrible time. To this day, the American Library in Paris is still thriving, in part due to these courageous people. This is a well-researched and fascinating look at the dedication needed to stand against the Nazis and save an important and beloved library. The author worked at the ALP in 2010, which accounts for the atmospheric retelling. Highly recommended. Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Virginie Roy.
Author 1 book599 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
January 13, 2021
I feel so bad... Despite the great premise, I just can't get into the story! DNF at 25%.

I really don't want to discourage anyone to read it. Odile, the main character, is a book lover and it was very interesting to read about the Dewey system. The storyline in the present seems to have broken the magic of the wonderful first chapter...

Thanks so much to the author, Netgalley and Atria books for the ARC.

Publication date : 09 Feb 2021
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
733 reviews1,779 followers
December 20, 2020
“Books the fresh air breathed in to keep the heart beating, to keep the brain imagining, to keep hope alive”.

This ended up being a bit of a disappointment for me. My favorite parts of this were overshadowed by the things I didn’t like.

I loved the story centering around books and the role librarians of the American Library in Paris played in fighting to make sure all people had access to them during the Natzi occupation. Books and libraries are a lifeline that should always be accessible especially during difficult times. The Dewey decimal references throughout were, also, another favorite part of mine.

Unfortunately, those are the only highlights for me with this. The writing was stilted, in that I never felt a deep connection with the characters. The historical story was much more interesting than the more present day one, but I still felt like I was outside looking in rather than a part of it. Margaret’s story’s ending was a big let down. This relationship deserved a more firm conclusion. Also, the fact that Odile never questioned and that she was ultimately surprised by her Dad or boyfriends ‘policing’ seemed way too naive for someone walking the streets of Paris day in and day out. Also, who was Lucienne? How did Oriole know her and why after so many years did she want to visit her? Little unexplained things like this drive me crazy. Why include it?

Anywho, this had great potential it just ended up falling short for me. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
748 reviews87 followers
March 4, 2021
2.5 stars
I really should go through Goodreads to count all the times I started a review saying "I was so looking forward to this one but it was a disappointment...." Perhaps the anticipating raises the bar too high for most books that they can't possibly live up to the hype? This certainly had the right formula - WWII, super bookish (Odile even constantly associates the Dewey Decimal System with her thoughts and throws around titles and quotes frequently) with a strong female protagonist.
I had two major issues with this book - the writing is pretentious. It feels like a young writer striving to write seriously and meaningfully. The effort of it jumped off the page.
But an even bigger problem was that the construction was so forced at times I could tell the author just needed to make something happen just to make the plot work. For example, relationships would just appear out of no where without the characters actually earning each other's trust. In one timeline (yes, the double timeline construction is used...with absolutely no benefit to the story, in my opinion) Odile is a semi-recluse in a small Montana town. She keeps to herself and the town gossips about her. The young teenage neighbor decides, pretty randomly, to interview her for a school project and within a couple pages Odile is sleeping my the side of her sick mother as if she was a life long family friend. We aren't shown a real connection, the author just needs the connection to be there so it magically appears. That sort of instant friendship - or instant anger/conflict - happens throughout the book and it feels cheap and manipulative rather than making the reader believe in the characters.
The Montana timeline does not enhance the book at all. I was glad that those sections were short so that we could quickly get back to Paris. The ending is pretty unbelievable and felt like it was hastily written to wrap it up under 400 pages. It's too bad because I do think that the setting of the library during the war was wonderful and I wish that it had lived up to the hype.
Profile Image for Debbie W..
724 reviews486 followers
December 1, 2022
Why I chose to listen to this audiobook:
1. I saw this story reviewed on Goodreads;
2. my audiobook hold on Libby finally became available; and,
3. November 2022 is my "Wars of the 20th Century Historical Fiction Month".

1. I learned about the American Library in Paris, and how, during the German Occupation of WWII, its librarians moved many publications to safer locations, delivered reading material to Allied servicemen while in hospital and secretly smuggled literature to Jewish patrons when they were banned from accessing the Library's services by the Nazis;
2. even though several characters were fictional, many were based on actual people;
3. interesting plot line, especially the one occurring in Paris in the 1940s; and,
4. the author's "Historical Note" is a must-read.

1. personally, I was so confused by young character Lily's redundant storyline which just felt like filler. I think with some ingenuity, her portion of the story could have been avoided altogether; and,
2. the narrator for young Odile drove me crazy! Her constant swallowing, teeth clicking, excessive exhalations, and lip licking - never mind her monotone voice - were all so distracting! I cringed every time I had to listen to her - it felt like hearing fingernails on a chalkboard! This was unfortunate, because, in my opinion, she narrated the most interesting parts of the story!

Overall Thoughts:
I thought the setting during the 1940s in Paris stole the show, while the setting during the 1980s in Montana was unnecessary.

If you're anything like me in that certain speaking voices and sounds annoy you, then I highly recommend reading a print copy of this story rather than listening to the audiobook.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,338 reviews696 followers
March 12, 2021
“The Paris Library” by Janet Skeslien Charles became a much needed respite from contemporary life. The story begins as a whimsical story of a young girl who wants very much to be a librarian. Her father, a chief of police in Paris, isn’t so sure she’s going to get a librarian job at an English speaking library, the American Library in Paris. But Odile has her heart set on becoming a librarian, memorizing the Dewey Decimal System so she can impress her potentially new boss, the Directress. This is 1939 Paris, before the Germans had plans to occupy France.

Odile is adorable. She has a twin brother and an overbearing father. But her homelife is stable and good. She won’t make much money as a librarian, but she will be working at something that fills her passion. Meanwhile, her father invites young policemen to her home for Sunday dinner in the hopes that one will take a shining to Odile and stop this nonsense of working.

Charles jumps timelines and places to 1983 Montana, where Odile is known as “the war bride” and totally misunderstood. Her “frenchness” has attracted the attention of her young teen neighbor, Lily. Lily sees Odile as sophisticated and worldly, especially compared to her “boring” life in Montana. Lily decides she wants to do a book report with the help of Odile; an unlikely friendship is forged. Lily is sweet and desperate to get out of her small town in Montana.

Slowly the reader learns of Odile’s life in Paris. Charles worked as a programs manager at the American Library in Paris, and learned of the history of the library during WWII. The library remained open during the war, which was an anomaly. The Directress at that time was adamant about remaining open and supplying books to soldiers and then to their Jewish Patrons. Charles learned of true stories of what occurred at the library at the time, and she incorporates these true stories into this gem of a story.

Charles knows about small towns in Montana as well, as she hails from such a place. Her intimate knowledge of the American Library in Paris and of small town living in Montana brings life to this story.

This is not a totally whimsical story of library life and coming of age. Odile comes of age under the horrendous conditions of occupied Paris. What happened during that time is awful, and Charles reminds the reader of that time. I found Odile’s chapters to be absorbing and thought provoking. Lily’s chapters are solid. Charles writes Lily’s chapters authentically. Lily is trying to find her place in her family and in the world. Lily and Odile don’t have a smooth relationship, but it’s one built on respect. I could picture Lily speaking French to her parents (parent’s eye rolls), and to her friends, as she imagines herself becoming sophisticated.

The historical fiction part of the novel is amazing. And to know that many of these situations happened to the librarians at that time makes it thought provoking. And I’m a sucker for novels that explore family, friendships, forgiveness, and even betrayal.

I highly recommend this for those who love libraries and historical fiction. I am amazed when I read, yet another historical fiction story about WWII, and still become consumed by the story.

Profile Image for Britany.
966 reviews418 followers
January 31, 2021
3.5 Stars

Alternating storylines between WWII Paris and 1980s Montana. Odile desires to get a job at the American Library in Paris just as the war is beginning. The cast of characters (mostly real people) and the activities and bookish references was just what I needed this winter. Lily Jacobsen is growing up in Montana as she comes of age through middle/high school, she becomes deeply interested in her aloof, outcasted French neighbor.

I fell hard and fast for this one, the writing and the story kept me interested, I had to know what happened to these characters. The ending (literally the last 15% of the book) was hugely disappointing and left me falling right in the middle here. I'm not sure if the author just had to end this instead of taking the care of continuing to weave what she had already deftly crafted. The choices these characters made at the end felt wrong and a little too contrived and rushed. I still really enjoyed learning about the American Library and learning a bit of what they endured during WWII. Anyone interested in this timeframe and books in general will really enjoy this one.

Thank you to Atria Books and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Karren  Sandercock .
771 reviews150 followers
February 15, 2021
Thanks to Hachette Australia, NetGalley and Janet Skeslien Charles for my copy of The Paris Library.

Paris, 1939: Odile Souchet is a girl obsessed with both the Dewey Decimal System and her boyfriend Paul and has just been employed as a librarian at the American Library in Paris. With the shadow of another war looming, she and her parents are worried about her twin brother Remy and of course he joins the French army. The German army easily overcome the Maginot Line, they march into Paris and the Parisians are now living in a city with new rules and regulations. Guided by the directress Miss Reader, the library has already started to hide many of the thousands of precious books and the librarians deliver books to Jewish people who can no longer use the library and soldiers convalescing in hospital. When the war finally ends instead of celebrating Odile is devastated she has been betrayed by the person she thought she could trust and loved.

Montana, 1983: Lily Froid is a lonely teenager; she is doing a school project and decides to ask her elderly neighbor Odile some questions. Odile is a widow; they refer to her in town as the war bride, she arrived in 1945 married to Buck Gustafson and no one knows anything about her life before moving to Montana? When Lily’s mother Brenda becomes ill, Odile supports her and after her mum passes away she’s someone who she can talk to and confined in. One day Lily crosses the line by snooping into Mrs. Gustafson past and she does uncover things about her neighbor’s life in Paris during WW II and has her invading her friend’s privacy ended their friendship?

The story focuses on the complex relationships between the main characters in the book, too many to mention, it has a dual timeline and I had no trouble following it. The Paris Library is an unforgettable story about choices, friendship, loyalty, family, deceit, loss, betrayal and books. Heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places and that’s the library. All thoughts expressed in this review are my own and I gave The Paris Library five stars. I have shared my review on Goodreads, NetGalley, Twitter, Australian Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and my blog. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Tea Jovanović.
Author 410 books673 followers
November 4, 2019
The reading completed, 4 blissful days of pure enjoyment... Good story, from start to finish, serious story lined with fine humour... My favourite city in the world, Paris, American Library, WWII, Jews, friendships, hardships, strong emotions, and many life situations that can't be watched as black or white... there is also a bit of grey... Only the true book lovers can understand passion for books and risks to save them... Two parallel stories, the one in Paris during WWII and another 40 years later in Montana are well led... With all the teenage ailings well-crafted :)
If you liked “Sarah's Key” by Tatiana de Rosney you will love this book too... #mustread
Profile Image for DeAnn.
1,317 reviews
February 1, 2021
4.25 Ordeal Stars (an inside joke with the book, certainly not an ordeal to read!)

I really enjoyed this one with dual storylines and timeframes. It was great to learn about the American Library in Paris and what happened there before and during WWII.

The WWII storyline focuses on Odile, her family, and how she sets out to get a job at the American Library. It was fascinating to discover that many of the other librarians were based on real people, that always makes the read more interesting to me! As the war progresses and the Germans occupy Paris, the library and all it represents is threatened. The Germans start to dictate books that can’t circulate and “certain types” of people that can no longer enter the library. The librarians engage in some resistance of their own and I couldn’t help but cheer them on!

The other storyline and timeline are set about 40 years later in a small town in Montana. Odile lives by herself and is very isolated. She is befriended by a lonely teenage neighbor Lily and the two start to build a wonderful friendship. Odile teaches her French and tries to impart some wisdom. Lily is struggling with a lot in her life and I enjoyed the interactions between these two.

The book slowly tells the story of Odile’s life in Paris and explains how she ends up in small town Montana. I thought this one had great characters and I was a bit sad to finish and say goodbye to these characters. This is my first book by this author, but I will look for others by her. This made for a good buddy read with Marilyn.

Thank you to Atria and NetGalley for the copy of this one to read and review.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,741 reviews2,267 followers
April 1, 2021
A story told in two separate timeframes – 1939 and 1983, and in two very different places – Paris, France and Froid, Montana, from the perspectives of two different women – Odile Souchet whose story spans the two timeframes, and her young neighbor Lily, who is at the age where bodies are beginning to change and the interest in boys and girls are front and center of many of her classmates. While her friends are busy with boys, Lily feels excluded and befriends her neighbor, eventually taking French lessons from her. When Lily’s mother dies, and her father remarries quickly, Lily takes refuge in the acceptance she finds in Odile, and treasures the moments she spends with Odile learning to speak French.

In 1939 Paris, Odile’s life is very different, her father is the police chief, and they live a comfortable life, money isn’t prominently displayed, but it isn’t a worry, either. Her father brings home several men for family dinners over time, hoping to find her a suitable husband who will be able to provide for her as he has. Odile, on the other hand, wants more than anything to work at the American Paris Library, applies for a job there, and is soon after hired. It isn’t long before Odile’s brother Remy enlists, the German Occupation of Paris begins, and the atmosphere of Paris and the library changes. Tensions build, and restrictions are put in place by the Germans, but Odile and the other librarians have already set in motion measures to protect some of the more treasured books. When Jews are no longer allowed to check books out from the library, Odile and friends, at great risk to themselves, bring the books to them. Meanwhile, Odile’s father has managed to bring home another potential suitor, and this time something clicks.

I loved the occasional quotes from classics inserted throughout, as one would float through Odile’s thoughts periodically. I loved the relationship between Odile and Lily, their relationship reminded me so much of my relationship with my godmother, who lived next door and was really more like a mother to me. I loved how the author portrayed these librarians, basing this story on the real librarians who lived through these years, and actually did defy the Nazis by making sure all had access to literature through their underground book-lending service. Some of the Parisians were happy to be rid of those deemed ‘undesirables’ by the Nazis, which seems relevant these days, but the main focus of this story was on the library, the books, the beauty of literature, and the hope it offers even in dark times.

Published: 09 Feb 2021

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Atria Books via NetGalley
Profile Image for Darla.
3,342 reviews524 followers
March 24, 2021
Odile seems to be just a reclusive old lady living next door. Lily is in junior high and has no interest in getting to know her until her family is in crisis. Told in dual storylines from WW II and the mid-1980's, this story of two women and the way their lives intersect is told with stellar timing. Both believe in their own minds that their world is a certain way and are determined to break out. What neither one realizes is the part others in their circles play in their story. I picked this book up because of the library angle and it did not disappoint. Libraries all over the world have many similar tales to tell and it was easy to see some parallels between a library during wartime and a library in the midst of a pandemic.

What I found most compelling about this book were some of the little things that were really much more important later: the red belt, birds (crows, robins, etc.), those anonymous notes that seem to grow in weight as the book continues, leeks vs. rutabagas, and more. Finally a word about books like this that give us a glimpse of those who may not have been on the "heroes" list once the Paris occupation was done. Many books tell the stories of those who did extraordinary things, but there were also everyday people who may have made mistakes. They may not have grasped the opportunity for greatness when it was in front of them. (A good read alike that explores themes like this is 'Paris Never Leaves You' by Ellen Feldman.) We deal with it now. Decisions which may seem small like wearing a mask, getting a vaccine, voting for a particular candidate, not buying goods 'Made In China,' etc. may be much more significant when we look back on them in the rearview mirror. As Janet Skeslien Charles so wisely points out in her notes at the end of the book, what is more important is to 'treat people with dignity and compassion.'

Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Justo Martiañez.
375 reviews117 followers
May 29, 2021
2.5/5 Estrellas

Desde pequeño, muchas veces he imaginado, he querido, he deseado, vivir entre libros, dedicarme a alguna profesión relacionada con ellos, librero, bibliotecario, coleccionista, conservador, lo que sea. Al final la vida te lleva por otros derroteros, lo que no es óbice para que siga acumulando libros de forma compulsiva, y que, desprenderme de cualquier papel, aunque sea una carta del banco, me cueste horrores.

Dicho esto, jamás podría suspender una novela cuyo leitmotiv, son los libros, la profesión de bibliotecario, el amor por la letra impresa. La novela se ambienta en París, durante la ocupación Nazi. Una de las primeras acciones represivas que realizan los ocupantes, atañe al ámbito cultural, prohibición de libros, incautación de colecciones privadas y públicas de bibliotecas, limitación del acceso a la cultura de la población judía, sobre todo.

En este ambiente, una institución de gran raigambre cultural en París, la Biblioteca Americana, defensora de la cultura y los valores americanos y anglosajones en la capital gala, resiste a estos intentos represores y, con la ayuda de un personal valiente y entregado, uno de ellos es nuestra protagonista y narradora, siguen distribuyendo libros, a soldados en el frente, a judíos que tienen vetado el acceso a la biblioteca, jugándose durante años el propio pellejo, para seguir manteniendo la luz de la cultura en el negro pozo de la sinrazón fascista.

Los mimbres son buenos, le época histórica inmejorable, la documentación de la autora exhaustiva, lleno de referencias literarias .....y lo que me he encontrado es un libro soso y simplón, con una trama inexistente y previsible, unos personajes y unos diálogos intrascendentes, un romance aburrido, que no transmite nada, en fin, un libro lleno de buenas intenciones, pero poco más.

Lo más importante, vivan los libros.

No me hagáis mucho caso, que estoy un poco cascarrabias, y si os hace tilín, adelante con él.....menudo truño esto de los más vendidos del Times.
Profile Image for Geo Marcovici.
1,239 reviews297 followers
July 15, 2020
Translation widget on The blog!!!
Biblioteca din Paris este o carte despre bucuria cărților, despre dreptul fiecărui om de a se bucura de lectură, de a avea acces la aceste lumi neprețuite care sunt puse la dispoziția cititorului.

Este o carte despre curajul bibliotecarilor, despre rezistența pe care au opus-o așa cum au putut unor opresori ai drepturilor și libertăților.
Recenzia mea completă o găsiți aici:
Profile Image for Amina.
373 reviews135 followers
December 1, 2022
I chose to read another WWII book after taking a substantial hiatus. I needed a break from the intense sadness, a subject matter that usually feels overwhelming.

Paris Library, follows Odile Souchet, as she takes on the job of working at the esteemed American Library in Paris. Set in 1939, things quickly change for Odile as Nazi's are entering the city. Not only will the precious books that she has come to love be threatened, so will all the things she holds dear.

Odile joins the resistance and along the way experiences love as well as betrayal.

The Paris Library also has a parallel story. This story was unnecessary and seemed to do nothing to improve the book. It follows a young teen, living in Montana, named Lily, who has a preoccupation with her aloof french neighbor, Odile.

The waltz between present and past broke the synchrony of the book. It was hard to feel vested in teen angst while also reading about Odile's treacherous life.

I would give this book 3.5 stars.
25 reviews
March 11, 2021
One of the most shallow and simplistic books I have ever read. Hated it! Supposedly the story of the heroic efforts by the staff of the American Library in Paris to keep their doors open throughout WW2. The characters were flat as cardboard and about as interesting. The main characters had no backbone and changed opinions and values daily. One day a new co-worker was a best friend, practically a "twin", and the next she was the enemy. There are so many excellent war stories out there telling of true heroism, this was an insult.
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