The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

Published on October 05, 2021

The Paris Library Book Cover

Reviewed by Marybeth Ginsberg

Recommended for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife, this work of fiction is based on the true story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris during World War II.

Young Odile loves books and feels compelled to work as a librarian in France. Her command of English is excellent and she lands her first job at the American Library in March of 1939. As the occupation of Paris by the Germans takes hold, Odile and a small group of librarians at the AML remain committed to serve the public. As war becomes imminent, events unfold quickly and circumstances have a profound impact on this small group of librarians and their families. Odile’s experiences love for the first time, comes to see her parents in a different light, and watches helplessly as her twin brother goes off to war. Yet, Odile remains committed to duty. When she realizes what the Nazis are capable of, she acts heroically to save as many people as she can. Eventually, the repercussions of an impulsive remark made casually in a tense moment will lead Odile to make life-changing decisions.

Throughout the novel, the action moves from Paris to Froid, Montana. It is 1983 and an older Odile becomes a powerful influence in the life of a young teenage girl, Lily. Through this relationship, Odile gains distance from her past shortcomings and  eventually allows herself to move forward with her life.

This book is based on research and tells an important WWII story. Janet Skeslien Charles does a wonderful job developing the characters as the circumstances in the story become increasingly dire. This is a great book –one that is hard to put down.    

Favorite Quote: “Morale? Then why books? Why not wine?” …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.”



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