Friday, December 27, 2013

The Paris Architect

The Paris Architect
Charles Belfoure
Sourcebooks Landmark
Naperville, Illinois
ISBN: 978-1402284311           
$ 25.99
364 pages      
During World War II, life in France had to be immensely difficult especially while being occupied by the German troops. Whether waiting in long lines for basic food supplies or the fear of being questioned by the Gestapo. had to make life intense, stressful, and challenging. For many people it was a “no-win” situation. If you assisted the Germans, you were often entitled to more of the everyday goods that were scarce but your neighbors would think of you as a traitor. If you did not help the Germans, you were frequently harassed, sometimes arrested and questioned and had difficulty obtaining the basic necessities that were needed for daily survival.
Given the situation for those unfortunate Jews living in Paris at this time, they were either killed or shipped off to a camp.
What if you knew a Jewish family or helped this family? If the Germans discovered this charity, it usually meant death for both.
For Lucien Bernard, life is hard but not overly stressful. As an unemployed architect, he has lived somewhat comfortably from his money inherited by his wife. Life is not the way he planned or wanted but all that is about to change.
Lucien is asked to examine a residence and to create the perfect place to hide people. He doesn't want to be involved with the hiding of any Jews, but the money is definitely enticing. If anyone is caught who knows that he designed the undetectable hiding space, he knows that even without direct involvement, he would be killed. The less he knows about the who and the why of his brilliant hide aways, the better.
By excelling in this challenge, he also finds himself being recommended to the German hierarchy to build factories to supply the needs of the war. At the same time, he continues to map out the perfect hiding place for Jews who are being pursued by the Gestapo. Can anyone handle being on both sides of the War? Both sides consider his designs to be brilliant.
The Paris Architect perfectly mixes history and architecture into a novel of historical romance. This addictive page-turner flows from one dangerous situation to the next with sometimes overlapping the events. The strength of the novel is the ethical situations for Lucien and how he chooses to approach these questionable activities. The writing is so descriptive that the reader can actual see the building, the hiding places, as well as the people and their clothes. This gives the reader the feeling of actually being beside Lucien in the story.
Author Charles Belfoure is an architect. He has written many architectural histories as well as working with the Baltimore Sun and the New York Times as a freelance writer. His specialty is historic preservation.
The Paris Architect is for anyone who enjoys a historical fiction novel with some architectural challenges. I will never even consider now to build a hidden room in the back of a closet , behind a bookcase, or around a fireplace after reading this novel. So where can I find a secret room?

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