The Paris Library – Janet Skeslien Charles, A Mediocre Beach Read

The Paris Library is the second book by American author Janet Skeslien Charles. If my book club hadn’t chosen this book, it probably would never have landed on my radar because everything from the subject to the cover was screaming, “You’ll forget me an hour after reading.”. Frankly, my prejudice did not mislead me this time.


The Paris Library chronicles Nazi-occupied Paris and how the American Library in Paris worked under occupation. Despite everything, it was enjoyable to read what the library staff did, from secretly distributing books to people as a shelter and to preventing valuable books from being looted. Considering that the Paris Library is loosely inspired by a true story, reading how a library shines a light on a city under occupation will surely make people like me happy who don’t spend a day without reading a book.

However, the author turned this situation into such a romance and used so many irrelevant quotes that this beautiful situation became banal. You will understand that it is a piece of history that has turned into a cheap romance when it could be a great book in the hands of another author.

The Paris Library - Janet Skeslien Charles

The Paris Library consists of two different but interconnected stories set in two different times and settings. The first story is about Odile’s experiences in the American Library in Paris. The second story is about Odile’s life in America years later; we read it through an adolescent girl. Thanks to the teenage girl whose name I can’t remember, we learn why Odile is different from everyone else in the town she lives in and why she lives there.

Of course, we take a look at Odile’s past and listen to our teenage girl’s problems. In this section, too, the love of books and reading is exaggerated with absurd quotes. However, it feels so empty that one starts to feel disgusted after a while.

The Paris Library is a very easy-to-read book that doesn’t force the reader to think (but you’ll roll your eyes occasionally). If you don’t want to think of anything and read a book set in Paris, and if you are very interested in libraries, you may enjoy it. But don’t have high expectations. Enjoy!

The Paris Library - Janet Skeslien Charles

The Paris Library

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

‘A wonderful novel celebrating the power of books and libraries to change people’s lives’ JILL MANSELL
‘Heart-breaking and heart-lifting and always enchanting’ RUTH HOGAN
‘An irresistible and utterly compelling novel that will appeal to bibliophiles and historical fiction fans alike’ SUNDAY EXPRESS
‘I devoured The Paris Library in one hungry gulp . . . charming and moving’ TATIANA DE ROSNAY
‘An irresistible, compelling read’ FIONA DAVIS
‘Paris and libraries. What’s not to love?!’ NATASHA LESTER
‘Compelling’ WOMAN & HOME
‘Delightful, richly detailed’ PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY

Janet Skeslien Charles

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.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey

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