6 August 2015

Review #290: The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

----Winston Churchill

Charles Belfoure, a national bestselling author, has penned a heart-touching as well as enlightening and nostalgic novel, The Paris Architect, that accounts the story of an architect based in Paris during the world war II when German have occupied the city and was ordering the Jews out of the city, when this normal regular, law-abiding architect chances upon a golden opportunity to prove his worth by taking life-threatening risks to be a hero.


Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces—behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe—detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.

Lucien, a law-abiding Parisian architect gets a job for the richest man in Paris, Monsieur Monet, who asks him to build a secret room for some of his Jewish friends. Now Lucien, being very careful during the Occupation and has forever agreed to what the Germans asked him to do, can help the Germans' enemy to prov himself more than just a regular man in these difficult times?

First of all, this book made me fall in love with it's descriptions and vivid imagery. The author brings the 1942 Paris alive with his eloquent writing style. From the intricate details of every other building to every other streets from the odd ones to the busiest ones, from the food to the linguistic aspect to the culture, everything has been laid out strikingly. While reading it felt like, I'm swiftly being carried into that Parisian essence. Not only the backdrop is vividly portrayed with all it's beauty and grace, but the author has captured the era of World War II so vividly. The effect of Nazis and the Gestapo arresting the Jews everywhere is brought alive wonderfully. In fact, the author has managed to instill that Nazi-fear through his story, like the sudden knock on the door, or a sudden car pulling up etc.

The writing style is quite elegant and polished and properly layered with enough distinct emotions to make the readers feel evocatively. The narrative style is free flowing and articulate as well as engaging. The prose is eloquent with a fast pace and the book has so much tension that it is bound to keep the readers hooked onto the story till the very last page.

The characters are drawn with enough realism and has a way to make the readers feel connected with their despair and hopes. The main character, Lucien, is like every other middle class man, his dreams to his infidel ways to his way of living his life style, everything is bound to strike a chord with the common man in today's world. The gradual change in his demeanor is very well projected by the author. The supporting characters are also very strongly developed. The Nazi-German soldiers and the chiefs are strikingly arrested in this book, that gives the readers a real feeling of what it feels like to be around a German soldier during those times.

The theme of the book is centered around about how one stands up or stands against the Germans to be a human being. Other than that, the architectural descriptions and how an architect's mind works while they are visualizing a building are carefully and saliently. In short, this is a very compelling as well as poignant novel which has lots of unspoken history as well as truth hidden behind the times when German was either sending the Jews into concentration camps or torturing them to death.

Verdict: This book will appeal to the historical fiction lovers and if you want to taste the city of Paris during the World War II era, then do grab a copy of this book for sure.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Charles Belfoure, for providing me with a copy of his book, in return for an honest review. 

Author Info:
Charles Belfoure is the nationally bestselling author of The Paris Architect, and the forthcoming novel, House of Thieves. An architect by profession, he graduated from the Pratt Institute and Columbia University, and he taught at Pratt as well as Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. His area of specialty is historic preservation, and he has published several architectural histories, one of which won a Graham Foundation national grant for architectural research. He has been a freelance writer for The Baltimore Sun and The New York Times. He lives in Maryland.  
Visit him here

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  1. Hello! I've just nominated you for the Sisterhood of World Bloggers Award

  2. I like the idea of vivid descriptions and imagery. It sounds like this book has been very well written, and the historical fiction aspect is one I am interested in as well because I am so interested in situations like this.

  3. I love anything about Paris. Will check this out. Thank you for posting about this book.


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