Last month I took part in a Buddy Read with my wonderful fellow bibliophile and book blogger Lucy @ Bookworm Blogger! If you are reading this then I’m sure you already know the magic that comes with discussing books with fellow booklovers, especially when you have both read the same book.
Lucy and I decided to read The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles, which is published by John Murray Press today. The idea being that we would stop at the same points several times throughout the book to discuss how we were finding it and where we thought it was going. It was really interesting to get each others perspective on the unfolding of events and journeys of the characters while we were in the middle of the story as opposed to at the end; seeing where we were in agreement and where our predictions differed. It was also great to be able to support each other when the going got tough and we were finding bits difficult too!
The story is split between Paris during the Second World War and Montana in the 1980’s.
Wartime Paris is narrated by Odile, a young woman who has proudly secured her dream job at the American Library. Here she meets an eccentric cast of characters, from all backgrounds and nationalities, united by their shared love of books. But as war looms, and then suffocates, her beloved city, Odile must fight for what she believes in and protect her friends and subscribers. But ever present are her worries about her soldier brother and her inability to ignore her blossoming romance with a handsome policeman. To add to this, shadows in the city lurk around every corner and who can she really trust? Does she even know what she’s up against?
1980’s Montana is narrated by Lily, a teen struggling to find her place in the world. One day Lily befriends Odile, her next door neighbour and the two become increasingly close, soon sharing more than just a love of language and reading. As Lily encounters painful emotions of loss, love, hate and friendship, Odile is always by her side. But it seems the woman Lily looks to almost as a mother is still hiding part of herself – experiences from long ago. Truth and honesty will test their relationship to its limits. But can they help each other to find peace and confidence in who they are?
I actually found the original blurb somewhat misleading to the events of the story itself so I hope my blurb might offer another perspective on the contents of the book.
What initially caught my attention about this book was, a) it was all about books and reading (obviously!) but, b) it was inspired by true events in the wartime history of the American Library in Paris. I love wartime history and was hooked by the idea of the quiet heroism of the brave librarians who fought their own battle for the right to literature, reading and knowledge.
For me, there were a few aspects of the book that didn’t sit quite right – but that is just my opinion. The wartime cast were not easy to get to know, or to follow. I found myself struggling to keep up with who was who and often frustrated at the confusion. However, I loved the cast and the portrayal of the relationships for 1980’s Montana – I was fully engaged in the lives of all the characters and followed the unfolding of their stories with interest. The Paris setting for me didn’t quite hold a convincing enough air of ‘the Nazi occupation’ and what it would really have been like to live under. The writing seemed to become preoccupied with other non-essential details and dead ends. I could really picture small-town Montana though – the community, church gossips, and Lily’s suffocation were really well written.
Overall Lucy and I both agreed we would rate our Buddy Read at three stars – we did want to know what happened but we weren’t hooked, we liked certain aspects but didn’t enjoy it all. It was a slow burner and for historical fiction it wasn’t brimming with aesthetic.
Thanks to Lucy for being my Buddy Read (go check out her blog for her review) and thank you to NetGalley for my ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
I’d love to know if you’ve read this book and what you thought of it, or a Buddy Read you took part in – drop me a line in the comments 🙂
Meg Readz xx