cover image The Paris Library

The Paris Library

Janet Skeslien Charles. Atria, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-1-9821-3419-8

Charles (Moonlight in Odessa) delivers a delightful chronicle of a woman’s life in WWII-era Paris and rural 1980s Montana. Shortly before the Germans invade France, Odile Souchet, a young Parisian who has adored the American Library in Paris since childhood lands a job there as a librarian. During the occupation, the library remains open and delivers books to soldiers. After Odile learns that her friend Margaret has become enamored with Felix, a Nazi soldier, she tells her fiancé, Paul, a policeman, of Margaret’s folly, and is shocked when Paul beats Margaret, leading Odile to leave and volunteer at the American Hospital. Charles then skips forward to 1983 Froid, Mont., where seventh-grader Lily befriends her widowed neighbor Odile Gustafson, who teaches her French and reveals secrets about her life in Paris. Their bond strengthens throughout Lily’s teenage years. 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. Agent: Heather Jackson, Heather Jackson Literary. (Feb.)