Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: The Paris Architect

Summary: In 1942 Paris, gifted architect Lucien Bernard accepts a commission that will bring him a great deal of money – and maybe get him killed. But if he’s clever enough, he’ll avoid any trouble. All he has to do is design a secret hiding place for a wealthy Jewish man, a space so invisible that even the most determined German officer won’t find it. He sorely needs the money, and outwitting the Nazis who have occupied his beloved city is a challenge he can’t resist.

But when one of his hiding spaces fails horribly, and the problem of where to hide a Jew becomes terribly personal, Lucien can no longer ignore what’s at stake. The Paris Architect asks us to consider what we owe each other, and just how far we’ll go to make things right. Written by an architect whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every soul hidden and every life saved. -- Sourcebooks

Over the past few months, I've seen some great reviews for THE PARIS ARCHITECT by Charles Belfoure. It has received a number of starred reviews and it was an Indie Next Pick for October 2013. Malcolm Gladwell even named it as his best book of 2013. So I figured if everyone liked it that much, I should give it a try.

I'm happy to say that I'm in agreement with all of them. I admit to being a little concerned since I often think books with this much hype have a hard time living up to my expectations, but THE PARIS ARCHITECT did just that. It was a very interesting piece of historical fiction that, at the the same time, had lots of drama and intrigue. Overall, it was a very entertaining read.

THE PARIS ARCHITECT tells the story of Lucien Bernard, a talented architect who is looking for his first big break. When he is approached by a wealthy man who wants him to create a hiding place for a Jew, he accepts the challenge primarily because of the money but also for the potential for greater jobs. He is tempted by the opportunity to trick the Nazis, but he knows his life is at risk if he's caught.

This one-time job turns into many opportunities to create more hiding places for Jews... and puts Lucien even more at risk. When one of his hiding spaces doesn't exactly work as he had planned, Lucien finds that these jobs are truly life and death for innocent Jews and his outlook on both the projects and his life begin to change.

I really liked the PARIS ARCHITECT from its characters (although not all of them were very likable including Lucien!), to he setting, to the historical details, to the suspense element. It was a fascinating book that had an interesting perspective on World War II. Since the author is a real-life architect, I felt as if the specifics on the architecture of the time and Lucien's hiding places was authentic and actually gave the book more credibility.  In addition, it was apparent that his research on the time period was very thorough.

One thing that really stood out to me about this novel was the character of Lucien. I really didn't like him. In fact, I couldn't stand his arrogance and greed. However, no matter his motivations, he was doing an honorable act; and he eventually came around and discovered some important lessons about humanity and himself. Throughout the course of the story, Lucien transformed into a true hero and I ended up really respecting him.

Another aspect of this novel that worked for me was the pacing of the story. It was actually quite suspenseful and had loads of drama and tense situations. The book never got slow for me and I felt the ups and downs of the characters and their plight to save Jews during World War II. What I did find interesting, though, is that this book was thrilling but also managed to tug on my heartstrings. Naturally any story about World War II and the persecution of the Jews is horrible; however, this book had some really tragic stories that sickened my stomach and made me cry. In addition, the way Lucien evolved into a good man touched my heart.

THE PARIS ARCHITECT deals with some very serious issues and would make a great book club selection. I found this reading guide sixteen intriguing questions. In addition, the publisher provides a fantastic resource for book clubs on their website. They even have some ideas for food and beverages! Some of the themes you might want to explore include duty, obligation, guilt, greed, war, sacrifice, risk, ego, friendship, loyalty, and love. 

In addition, the publisher has a special Book Club makes THE PARIS ARCHITECT an even more enticing book for your next meeting! Any book club that orders 10+ copies (must show proof) will receive signed book plates, discussion guide, a book club gift basket complete with Paris-themed goodies, and the author will call or Skype in for your book club meeting. The offer is good through September 1 but the book club meeting can take place after deadline. You can email proof of purchase to to take advantage of this fantastic offer.

THE PARIS ARCHITECT was an exciting story with lots of historical facts woven in. Highly recommended. 

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I've seen mixed reviews of this book but you've sold me! I'm adding it to my wish list.

Kim@Time2Read said...

I've seen this one and been wondering what it is about! Sounds like a good one. I'm adding it to my list!

Becca said...

I am so glad you liked it! I have a copy from Nancy and I am eager to read it when I get some of these review books finished!

Beth F said...

I'm not sure why I've held off reading this. I should bump it up on my list. What a cool book club pack.

Anna said...

I just won a copy of this book, and I can't wait to read it. I'm glad you liked it despite the main character being unlikable.

Poof...books! said...

I thought this was a beautiful book, so glad you enjoyed it. Everyone should read it to remember but it stands on it's own as a wonderful novel. I recommend it to all!