Book Review – The Paris Library, a uniquely crafted World War II story

Namo Namaha friends. In this post, I’ll be reviewing The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles. This is a World War II historical fiction novel about a group of people doing their best to keep a library alive despite the entire world around them falling apart! I received this as an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy).

Book Name –  The Paris Library

Author – Janet Skeslien Charles

Genre – Fiction

Category – Historical/World War II

Year of publication – February 2021

Publication house – Atria Books

Goodreads rating – 4.17


This is a two-timeline narration story. One part is Odile’s, a librarian in Paris during the world war II period, and another is Lily’s, a teenager in the 1980s in the USA. It’s a story of relationships and survival.

Plot – 3.5/5

For about 75% of the book, I kept wondering where is this story taking me? I couldn’t make much sense of the plot but once I crossed a certain point in the novel, it all came together. Like a beautiful tapestry or a well-baked cake, it all made sense only in the end, and the story ultimately turned out to be quite satisfactory and fulfilling.

Pacing – 3/5

The pacing was really slow, atleast till almost 3/4th of the book. Imagine you are on a seashore. You see the build-up of a huge wave, it’s steadily building up the momentum and you can barely wait for it to crash on to you! But in the end, you realize it just wet your feet and sunk you deeper into the sand granules! That sinking feeling? That’s as close to how I felt reading this book. It was good, but I didn’t get the huge wave crash on me, it wasn’t strong enough, not satisfactory enough.

Characters – 4.5/5

If this book did something very well, it was the characters. I adored Margaret and Ellie. I liked the older Odile. The other characters in the library are equally lovable too.
If not for anything else, read this book for the character study. Especially to peep a look into human emotions, how they can make or break you. How it can force you into doing an unforgivable mistake and how it can redeem you.
I have always read the English POV(Point of View) of world war II. It was absolutely eye-opening to read from a french POV.

Setup – 4/5

The set-up is very well done. I loved the way analogies are used to help us experience Paris. For example:

“I arrived on le grand boulevard where, in the space of a block, the city shrugged off her working-class mantle and donned a mink coat. The coarse smell of coal dissipated, replaced by the honeyed jasmine of joy, worn by women delighting in the window display of Nina Ricci’s dresses and Kislav green leather gloves”

This book doesn’t show us the horrors of the war as most of the world war II books do. This is a subtle story of living in wartime. What happens when the men go away to a war? What happens to the people who get left behind? How do they survive? Cope? Sustain the soldiers? That’s the crux of the story. More reflection than action.

Writing style – 4/5

I found the writing to be extremely accessible. It was light and surprisingly uplifting considering the subject matter. Despite my complaints on pacing, I still think the writing was impeccable. There is a line in the novel, where the author, gives her name to a character, sort of a guest appearance in her own book, and I was charmed by it. We have seen directors acting/appearing in a guest role in their movies. Seeing an Author’s name as a guest character in their own novel is somewhat unique to me, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Review, Recommendation, and Rating

Rating – 3.8

Borrow gradeBook worth borrowing from the library or trading with your friends/family.

Star Rating – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Note: As I mentioned in my previous post, I have created a brand new rating system, you can check that out if you would like, here.

So those were my thoughts on The Paris Library. What do you think about the review? the novel? Does it interest you? Which are your favorite world war II stories? Do let me know your thoughts on my SM channels @twitter, @instagram, or @goodreads or comment down below.

You can even join me at my book club in discord or @ bookclubz, and buddy read some books with me. Let’s keep the bookish conversation going. 

Till then, stay safe and blessed. Om Shanti. 🙏

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