Have you ever wondered what levels of courage you would be able to muster in times that require extraordinary bravery, times where your belief in the greater good of helping people far outweighs your own safety?
The book The Paris Library, which recounts the story of library workers during the German occupation of Paris in the Second World War, tells such a tale. It was named The Best Book of 2021 by Amazon and Chapters Indigo. I spoke with the author, Janet Skeslien Charles.
“When I heard this story I had to sit down and write it,” said Skeslien Charles.
When I heard about this book, I had to sit down and read it.
A native of Montana, Skeslien Charles grew up next door to Claudine, a war bride who captivated her little neighbour with stories of the appalling events that happened in Paris during the Second World War. Along the way, Claudine also taught Skeslien Charles how to speak French.
“Even as a kid, I could see that Claudine was very brave to leave everything behind. It took a lot of courage for her to leave her job, her friends and her family in order to come to Canada. Claudine sparked my interest in going to France,” the author said.
During her two-year job tenure at the American Library in Paris, (ALP), Skeslien Charles first heard about the bravery and heroism of the ALP library workers during the German occupation of Paris in the Second World War.
The Paris Library, which is based on a true story, is a testament to the importance and the power of books, most especially in troubled and challenging times. The intricacies of friendship, which are built on trust and the intimacy of fear, can also be destroyed by those very traits.
The heroes in this book are not the soldiers at the front line or the ones in the foxholes, but rather, everyday people who refused to be bowed by the travesties of evil.
Skeslien Charles fosters a real connection between the reader and the main characters by telling the story that outlines the bravery of the ALP staff. They defied the Nazis and delivered books surreptitiously to the library’s Jewish subscribers, putting themselves in great danger in the process. What makes it more profound is that we know that these women and men are based on true portrayals of ALP staff.
We walk the journey with Odile, her boyfriend, Paul, Odile’s dear friend from the States, Margaret and more. I felt like I was walking through the hallowed rooms of the ALP with them, sharing quiet conversations between the stacks with the directress, Miss Reeder, who welcomed all to the Library: “students, teachers, soldiers, foreigners and French.”
“I wanted to write about the bravery of the librarians who were instrumental in keeping the library open,” said Skeslien Charles.
There is a quietness to Skeslien Charles’ story that speaks volumes in the telling, done in a way that invites the reader to be a part of the tale.
It is a truism to say the author and I are dedicated lovers of the written word, readers who are enthralled with the very idea of books and consider them true friends. As we got comfortable with each other, we seemed to form a kind of immediate connection that sparks lovely dialogue relative to a book’s characters, plot, or surprise actions or treacheries. Skeslien Charles and I chatted about some of the book’s characters.
You can register here for a captivating, based-on-true-events session with Janet on January 26, 2 pm EST.
To read Cece’s full interview with Janet click here: Volume XII – Janet Skeslien Charles (cecescott.com)
Cece is the feature cover writer for several prestigious publications and is an informed, connected and enthusiastic book blogger at cecescott.com. Her first book, “The Love Story,” published in 2019, was chosen as one of City Life Magazine’s ‘8 Books That Will Change Your Life.’ Cece is also working on a book of Daily Reflections for Auto Immune Condition Warriors.
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