Look at me! I read the book for Wine and Whining (one of my IRL book clubs) this month! Wahoo! I’m doing a little dance in celebration of being a responsible book club member. Today we’re going to France… During WWII. The Nazi occupation was a nasty time, y’all. We’re going to talk about The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure.
Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Because I do not live in a society policed by the Gestapo, I have no fear of reprisal should I have any negative commentary. Wahoo, freedom of speech!
Lucien Bernard is an architect. He lives in Paris under the Nazi occupation and lives tries to maintain something approaching a normal life. It’s tough to get a gig when your homeland is controlled by a hostile army, and money is a pretty big deal when you’ve got both a wife and a fancy mistress. Lucien starts out as a pretty big jerk. In addition to being a big fat cheater face, he’s pretty antisemitic. The Nazis are easy to pinpoint as the worst of the worst in terms of antisemitism (deservedly so, I mean, HOLOCAUST.) However, Europe (in addition to other parts of the world) have been pretty unfriendly to the Jewish people throughout history. Spanish Inquisition, anybody?
Lucien meets up with a wealthy man named Manet about a job. In exchange for putting in a good word with the Germans and getting Lucien a commission to build a factory, Manet would like Lucien to design a hiding place for Jewish refugees. Lucien is appalled, but he’s also greedy. He doesn’t care about the Jews he may be helping, he cares about money. He also cares about his ego, and likes the idea of outsmarting the Gestapo. Nobody likes having their country invaded.
As it turns out, designing hiding places is Lucien’s gateway drug into becoming a decent human being. One hiding place leads to another and another. Lucien’s cold dead heart slowly begins to thaw and he sees the plight of the Jews for what it is- a horrendous abomination that needs to be stopped.
I kind of loved this book, you guys. It reminded me a bit of Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, as it was one of the first books I read about French Jews during WWII. I have read so much about the Jews in Poland and Germany, but for some reason France’s situation came as a surprise to me. It shouldn’t have, I mean, it was OCCUPIED BY THE NAZIS. Could this war have GOTTEN any uglier? Makes me ashamed to be a human… But then I read a lovely story of redemption like The Paris Architect, and I think humanity may not completely suck.
Since we’re on the subject and there’s no lack of material, what are some of your favorite books that explore WWII? Tell me about them, Bookworms. I’d love to get some more recommendations.
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Paris Architect for your own collection, please consider using this link and purchasing through Book Depository. Any purchases you make garner me a small commission, the proceeds of which I fully intend to invest in the purchase of more books.