The Paris Library: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Anyone who loves books will be delighted by The Paris Library!

In 1939 the world is Odile Souchet’s oyster!  Young, living in the most beautiful city in the world, with a life full of promise.  Her ambitions are realized when she secures a position with the American Library in Paris, she is on her way to a bright future.  Her father, a formidable man, is not so pleased with her career, he would rather see her married and raising his grandchildren.  He begins a program of bringing home prospective men to join their Sunday dinner in hopes of having his way.  He hits paydirt with Paul, this one may have a chance at Odile’s heart.  But note the year, 1939, soon Nazis will control the city and with them they will bring a moral rot to the city on the Seine.  The American Library will be a ray of hope in a time of peril.

 In 1983 Montana, Lily, a young school girl, knocks on the door of her neighbor, the enigmatic Mrs. Gustafson, a French war bride who has remained aloof from the community.  Lily’s move is a bold one, no one visits the widow Gustafson, her excuse is needing help for a school report on France.  Lily’s exuberance will pull Mrs. Gustafson out of her isolation and when Lily desperately needs a friend and mentor, Mrs. Gustafson will fill that role. 

This lovely story introduces characters the reader will care about, making moral choices that have consequences.  The depiction of the library and the courageous activities undertaken by the librarians during WWII are made more realistic from the author’s experience as programs director at the American Library in Paris.  This is a great book club selection with lots of historic detail and many issues to discuss.

— Deon Stonehouse

February 2021 Indie Next List

“I can’t think of a more perfect novel to recommend to book lovers than The Paris Library! Not only does it bring to life the true story of the heroic librarians of the American Library in Nazi-occupied Paris, its interwoven narrative of a bereft teenager in 1980s Montana who finds a kindred spirit in her mysterious, reclusive, and book-loving French neighbor is a feat of extraordinary storytelling. The Paris Library is a testament to the everlasting power of literature and literary places to bring people together and be a home for everyone, even during our darkest, most hopeless, and divided times.”
— Alyssa Raymond, Copper Dog Books, Beverly, MA


An instant New York Times, Washington Post, and USA TODAY bestseller—based on the true story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris during World War II—The Paris Library is a moving and unforgettable “ode to the importance of libraries, books, and the human connections we find within both” (Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author).

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet seems to have the perfect life with her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into the city, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

“A love letter to Paris, the power of books, and the beauty of intergenerational friendship” (Booklist), The Paris Libraryshows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest places.

About the Author

Janet Skeslien Charles is the award-winning author of Moonlight in Odessa, which was published in ten languages. Her shorter work has appeared in revues such as Slice and Montana Noir. Janet first became interested in the incredible true story of the librarians who stood up to the Nazi “Book Protector” when she worked as the program’s manager at the American Library in Paris. Her novel The Paris Library will be published in thirty countries. She divides her time between Montana and Paris. Visit her at or connect with her on Twitter @SkeslienCharles.

Praise For…

“As a Parisian, an ardent bookworm, and a longtime fan of the American Library in Paris, I devoured The Paris Library in one hungry gulp. It is charming and moving, with a perfect balance between history and fiction.”
— Tatiana de Rosnay, New York Times bestselling author of Sarah's Key

“A fresh take on WWII France that will appeal to bibliophiles everywhere. I fell in love with Odile and Lily, with their struggles and triumphs, from the very first page. Meticulously researched, The Paris Library is an irresistible, compelling read.”
— Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Chelsea Girls

“The Paris Library is a refreshing novel that celebrates libraries as cradles of community, especially when we need them the most. It shows how literature can be a means of escape, a catalyst for human connection, and a moral center in grim times. A thoroughly enjoyable read, kind-hearted and brimming with delightful bookish allusions.”
— Matthew Sullivan, author of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

"Having lived in an apartment just above the current location of the American Library in Paris, I've always felt connected to the institution and wondered about its story, so I'm grateful to Janet Skeslien Charles for penning such a vivid, enjoyable, based-on-a-true-story tale. In THE PARIS LIBRARY, the beloved library, its staff, and its subscribers come to life and remind us of both the horrors of World War II and the vital role books play in keeping us afloat in difficult times. Well-researched, stirring, and rich with detail, THE PARIS LIBRARY is an ode to the importance of libraries, books, and the human connections we find within both."
— Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names

“What makes The Paris Library such a tender read is Charles's firsthand experience… Her meticulous research brings these figures to life…. Together the true storylines provide wonderful insight into relationships and friendships that transcend time and place.”

— BookPage

"A descriptive and deeply intriguing piece of historical fiction that will pull on the heartstrings of all book lovers." 
— Business Insider

"Captivating, richly drawn."
— Woman's World

"Well-plotted and richly populated."
— New York Journal of Books

"A book about families torn apart, friends lost and found, fear, hope, inspiration, and books and a love of reading. Bravo to Janet Skeslien Charles."
— The Free Lance-Star

"Intelligent and sensuously rich....A novel tailor-made for those who cherish books and libraries."
— Kirkus Reviews

"A love letter to Paris, the power of books, and the beauty of intergenerational friendship."
— Booklist

"Delightful...richly detailed...Historical fiction fans will be drawn to the realistic narrative and the bond of friendship forged between a widow and a lonely young girl."
— Publishers Weekly
Product Details
ISBN: 9781982134198
ISBN-10: 1982134194
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: February 9th, 2021
Pages: 368
Language: English