Sunday, 22 November 2015

'The Paris Architect' by Charles Belfoure (***.5)

Hello, readers! Today I am very happy to share with you another book review- this time it is Charles Belfoure's The Paris Architect. Now, during my very enjoyable time working at FMcM this summer, I was responsible for creating the press release for this book, and I sent off lots of copies to some very lucky readers! At the end of my time I was fortunate enough myself to be able to take home a copy. I started reading this book that summer, however with all the required reading I had to do for university I had to put it on a back burner until I finished all of my other reading! 

So, a few weeks ago I picked up The Paris Architect where I left off- and I was very glad I went back to it. I have always been fascinated by World War II history and in this aspect certainly the book didn't disappoint- seeing the horrors of the Nazi occupation of France through the eyes of a cynical and reluctant architect was such a fascinating read- a totally different angle from what I ever imagined. The Paris Architect is such a unique and beautifully written story, and I would recommend it to everyone interested in World War II history, and quite simply anyone who just likes a flipping good story

Intrigued? Read the blurb to find out more...

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.

I really liked the progression of the story, and like with any great book, there was the perfect mix of tension, suspense, horror and even a bit of romance. The dialogue and relationship between the characters was particularly strong, and although the book wasn't long enough for me to get properly attached to any of the characters, I really liked the chemistry between all of them. In particular, the relationships between the German Gestapo and ordinary Parisian citizens was enjoyable and interesting to read about. I had a fierce dislike for Lucien throughout the whole of the book, and although I believe this was intended by Belfoure, I feel like it was mostly because he was so contradictory that I could never really believe him. For me, to fully enjoy a book I have to like or at least be able to relate to the protagonist, and I'm afraid with Lucien this was not the case. Even near the end of the book where he is meant to be redeemed, I couldn't quite sympathise with him or raise him to the level of a hero.

Having said that, there was one aspect of Lucien's character that I found really interesting, and that is the two sides of him that were continually in conflict throughout almost the entirety of the book. On the one hand, there's the ambitious aspect of his character that is obsessed with his architecture; then on the other hand, there's his parental, protective side who puts his life on the line for the Jews in his community. At times I found his character ambiguous to say the least, however most of the time I did find this really engaging. 

Although this book was really beautifully written, and in such a way that I could picture every scene, like a lot of the readers who have reviewed this book before me I had a few problems with the language used. Some of the phrases that Lucien and other people used, I don't think they would have used realistically. For example, when the priest calls Lucien 'asshole'- I found that a bit ridiculous, to be honest. A lot of the time, the language sounded slightly American.

The only other real problem I had was with the ending. This sounds a bit horrible from my part, but I kind of wanted a less of a satisfactory ending. Maybe it's because the last World War II novel I read was The Book Thief but I just wanted more of a complex ending instead of everything being wrapped up perfectly. It might just be me being a bit of a miserable person, but I'm not normally a fan of happy endings unless the whole of the book has been really lighthearted.

Despite these critical comments, however, I honestly really enjoyed The Paris Architect. Charles Belfoure is such a talented writer and I'm excited to pick up House of Thieves to give it a whirl. I would highly recommend The Paris Architect, especially if you're a fan of historical fiction or are interested in learning about World War II. 

Buy The Paris Architect here:

Check out Charles Belfoure here:

Until next time :)

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