Odile Souchet lands her dream job at the American Library in Paris, much to the chagrin of her father, who thinks she should focus on finding a husband. But it is 1939, and soon she has bigger worries as Nazis occupy the city, and even the inimitable directress, Miss Reeder, cannot guarantee the safety of the library’s books and patrons. Forty years later, in a small Montana town, Lily Jacobsen is curious about her quiet, elegant neighbor...
Chapters alternate between Odile in Paris, where readers get to know Boris, the Russian head librarian, eccentric patron Professor Cohen, and Odile’s twin brother, Rémy, who enlists in the French army ... Charles brings her experience working at the American Library in Paris to this novel inspired by real people, that is a love letter to Paris, the power of books, and the beauty of intergenerational friendship.
World War II Paris during the German occupation forms the setting for an intelligent and sensuously rich novel of a young woman's coming-of-age ... While the chapters featuring Lily are snappy and often amusing, especially as she begins to adopt Parisian airs, they play a distinctly secondary role to those concerning Odile's life during the war. Structurally, the novel sometimes sags ... But the author has a clear affection for both Paris and the American Library, where she worked as a programs manager in 2010, and she integrates the stories of many of the real-life employees and patrons of the library into the story with finesse, earning the novel its own place in the pantheon of World War II fiction ... A novel tailor-made for those who cherish books and libraries.
Charles...delivers a delightful chronicle of a woman’s life in WWII-era Paris and rural 1980s Montana ... Charles’s richly detailed plot incorporates historical figures from the American Library and highlights the perils of occupied Paris. Historical fiction fans will be drawn to the realistic narrative and the bond of friendship forged between a widow and a lonely young girl.