Book Review: The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

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.

Written by an expert whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every life the architect tries to save.

Release Date: October 8, 2013
Age Group: Adult
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

I started The Paris Architect not knowing if I'd like the book enough to keep reading it. The summary didn't wow me and I'm not usually a fan of a male main character.  But, I ended up loving this book!  I was completely drawn in by the story, the characterization, and the intensity of the characters' situation.

I've read several fiction books set in the WWII time period, and I have loved each one more than the last.  From Sarah's Key, to The Book Thief, to Prisoner B-3087, and now The Paris Architect, these historical fiction novels about the Nazi occupation in WWII are moving and inspirational to read.  I don't ever want the world to forget about the horrors that occurred during WWII and I like to read these books as my way of honoring the people who suffered and died, all because of their faith and/or nationality.    

What made The Paris Architect so moving for me was the character growth.  Lucien starts out like any other gentile Frenchman.  He doesn't care about the Jews' suffering and deaths.  His only thought is "better them than me."  He's pretty self-absorbed, living his life, going back and forth from his wife to his mistress, and his only problem is trying to find work (and keep his wife from finding out about his mistress).  Lucien is contacted by a man named Manet, who offers him a lot of money to design a hiding place in Manet's apartment to hide a Jew.  The only reason Lucien takes the job is because of the money and because Manet promises him a contract to design a factory for the Germans to build engines.  Lucien doesn't want to risk his own safety for a Jew but is intrigued by the challenge of designing a hiding place to deceive the Nazis.

One job turns into more, and Lucien devotes himself to saving lives by designing unique and clever hiding places for them.  He enjoys the challenge, but starts to see the Jews as real people, people he knows and sympathizes with, and it's that realization that leads to his personal growth.  Lucien changes so much throughout The Paris Architect, and became someone I admired.  He is in constant contact with several Nazis, due to being the architect for several of their factories, and the fact that he socializes with the Nazis while keeping his secret work from them made the story really exciting.  I was on the proverbial edge of my seat for much of this book, fearing Lucien's discovery as the architect who continually outmaneuvers the Nazis searching for Jews. 

I really can't say enough good things about The Paris Architect.  It was readily apparent how much Belfoure knows about the time period, architecture, and the lives of the people in Nazi-occupied France.  I love it when I finish a fiction novel feeling like I learned something, and I definitely had that feeling after finishing The Paris Architect.  The pacing was perfect, keeping me invested in the story despite this being a fairly long book.  I enjoyed every page of The Paris Architect and highly recommend it.   

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Kelli. I'm going to have to suggest this one to my book group.


Word verification stinks--- but spammers are worse. Thank you for your patience!