Skip to main content

The Paris Library, by Janet Skelsien Charles

Maria is a book reviewer, editor, and proofreader, as well as a master of public health, master gardener, photographer, artist, and writer.


I read The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles at the request of the publisher, Atria Books, a branch of Simon and Schuster, in exchange for an honest review. This important book is a masterpiece of historical fiction, based on the true story of several librarians at the American Library in Paris. It tells the fictional story of Odile Souchet, a young woman who, against her father’s wishes, takes a job as a librarian.

It simultaneously tells the story of Dorothy Reeder, an American ex-pat, was determined to keep the library open to the public, despite the Germans’ threats. The story is beautifully written, with well-developed characters. Ms. Charles has a way of transporting the reader into the world of those characters. I proudly gave it five stars on GoodReads.

Even Librarians Participated in the French Resistance

The librarians of The American Library participated in the French Resistance in ways I never realized. Against the “rules” of the German occupiers, they smuggled books to Jewish people who were no longer allowed to enter the library. They also smuggled books to Allies who had been taken as prisoners of war, and protected valuable documents and rare books from being destroyed.

Support For Our Soldiers Before and During the War

Even before the war began, the librarians taped strips of brown paper over the library windows to prevent the fall or spread of broken glass in the event of bombing.

The American Library started what they called their “Soldier Service” in which they provided books and magazines to Allied soldiers’ canteens and to those in hospitals. When a soldier finished with his books and magazines, he passed them on to another person, and eventually the materials were turned into the camp library. All these materials were considered gifts from the library.

Constantly Harassed And Threatened

Although harassed and threatened by the Gestapo, the head librarian, Dorothy Reeder, out-witted the Germans’ at almost every turn. At the end of the book, information is provided on what happened to Ms. Reeder, and the other real librarians after the war, and how they carried on their work.

Old libraries are beautiful. They just don't build them like this anymore. This is the genealogy section housed in the old historic part of the Jefferson County Public Library, in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

Old libraries are beautiful. They just don't build them like this anymore. This is the genealogy section housed in the old historic part of the Jefferson County Public Library, in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

Scroll to Continue

The Saga Spans Several Decades

Spanning several decades, the story follows Odile, who married an American serviceman after the war, and moved to the small town of Froid, Montana, and is told in alternating time frames of Odile’s life in Paris, and her time as a widowed school teacher in Montana.

As Odile discussed books with the other characters, I was reminded of many books I have always wanted to read, but somehow never found the time. Through the voice of her main character, the author gave me a list of books to seek out for my own reading pleasure and education. That list is priceless and very much appreciated.

An Important Book

The Paris Library, is an important book for history lovers and book lovers alike. It certainly added to my understanding of the personal experiences of everyday people when war arrives on their doorsteps. There are some atrocities described, but not graphically. There is love, betrayal, friendship, family, teenage angst, and lots of history. This is another book you have to read. It should be on the reading list for history courses worldwide.

What made The Grumpy Book Reviewer grumpy?

Very little: one redundancy, a few missing commas, and a few split infinitives.

© 2021 Maria Logan Montgomery

Your Comments Are Always Welcome

Maria Logan Montgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, UsA on July 08, 2021:

Mine, too, Lady Day. Thanks for dropping by, and for your comment.

Lady Dazy from UK on July 08, 2021:

History and books, two of my favourite pastimes.

Related Articles