Birch Bay book club review: “The Paris Library” by Janet Skeslien Charles


In 1939, at the American Library in Paris, Odile Souchet gets her dream job. She is fresh out of library school and her love of books, the Dewey Decimal System and desire to help others makes her a perfect fit for the library. As the Nazis occupy Paris, they impose censorship, and revoke the freedom to read, while the librarians are doing their best to thwart their efforts and make sure all their subscribers have access to books.

In 1983, Lily Jacobsen, a middle schooler, decides to do a report on France so she can interview her reclusive neighbor, Odile Gustafson. Lily is intrigued by Odile and the two strike up a friendship. Odile recognizes some of herself in Lily and is there for Lily at a critical point in her life. Odile’s past unfolds as she shares her life with Lily.

Janet Skeslien Charles weaves history into a fictional work centered around the human spirit, both during and after WWll. This novel is character-heavy, delving into relationships, community, love, loss and jealousy. The main characters are not without their flaws and, at times, you might not like them. Many characters in this story were real people, including Dorothy Reeder, directress of the American Library in Paris.

This book is available at Like audiobooks? You can find that on our Libby app.

Friends of Birch Bay Library Book Club meets 4-5:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month at the Bookmobile stop, and is open to all.

Dianne Marrs-Smith is the Lynden library manager and Friends of Birch Bay president. She reads and listens to a variety of different books, loves getting book recommendations and her favorite genre is horror.


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