Would you put everything on the line to save innocent people from persecution? Would you hide someone in your apartment, knowing that in doing so, you’ve just signed the death warrant for yourself, your family, and even the rest of the tenants in the apartment building? Well, as tough as these conundrums may be, people in Nazi occupied France made these kinds of decisions every day. One of these people, Lucian Bernard finds himself wrestling with his conscience, sense of practicality, pride, and financial strain, when he accepts a commission to build a concealed hiding place for a friend who makes it his business to hide Jews, and at the same time, accepts a commission from the Germans to build a factory in Paris.
Charles Belfoure’s debut fiction novel, The Paris Architect, has been hailed as being exciting, exhilarating and nerve racking. Belfoure has even been called the next Ken Follet…. Yeah, that kind of put me off as well – I really hate plaudits like that, A) it is lazy writing, B) it is such a big comparison, that it is almost impossible to live up to, and C) every author should be individual…. Anyway, that’s for another musing post later on maybe.
I wanted to read something completely different to what I am currently struggling through (I may either have a really positive review or a really negative review in a few weeks!), and so I thought I’d give this one a go. Let me tell you, I am so glad that I put my initial reluctance aside because it turned out to be one of my favourite books that I’ve read this year!
The writing and pace follows that of a traditional thriller, however, instead of implementing 3 page chapters, Belfoure manages to keep the suspenseful tone and pace throughout decent sized chapters. This is a real telltale sign that an author knows how to write. The characters are very well fleshed out and no one in this novel is “perfect” – each person has their own prejudices and how they decide to prioritize these prejudices is interesting, and sometimes frustrating.
There are some negative points to this novel though: Sometimes the phrases used by certain characters seemed quite contemporary, or Americanized – but then, for all I know, they may have indeed used those phrases in 1941. Another issue with me was the fact that sometimes certain things tied a little too neatly together – however, at the same time, it did show realistic human nature, so I suppose that can’t be too much of a negative. I can’t really explain further as it would give away some major plot points.
Although entirely fictional, the happenings in this novel most likely did occur in Nazi occupied Europe. I love reading about the French Resistance and the dichotomy between the citizens of France that try to survive by joining the Resistance to destroy the German progression, and the other citizens who try to survive by “collaborating” with the Germans in many different aspects. It really does make you think about what it means to survive, what it would take, and how far you can stretch your moral compass. Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this brilliant read!
The Paris Architect: A Novel