3 reviews

The Paris Architect: A Novel
by Charles Belfoure

Published: 2013-10-08
Hardcover : 384 pages
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104 clubs reading this now
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Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 3 members

"A beautiful and elegant account of an ordinary man's unexpected and reluctant descent into heroism during the second world war." —Malcolm Gladwell

A thrilling debut novel of World War II Paris, from an author who's been called "an up and coming Ken Follett." (Booklist)

In 1942 Paris, ...

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"A beautiful and elegant account of an ordinary man's unexpected and reluctant descent into heroism during the second world war." —Malcolm Gladwell

A thrilling debut novel of World War II Paris, from an author who's been called "an up and coming Ken Follett." (Booklist)

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.

Editorial Review

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Discussion Questions

1. Why did the majority of people in France refuse to help the Jews during World War II?

2. In the beginning of the novel, Lucien didn't care about what happened to the Jews. Discuss how his character evolved throughout the novel. How did your opinion of him change?

3. The Germans were disgusted that the French always informed on one another during the Occupation. Would you assume that this is a common war practice? Why? In what ways does war bring out the worst in people? In what ways does it bring out the best in people?

4. Many spouses abandoned each other because one was Jewish. What did you think when Juliette Trenet's husband left her? Is there any defense for what he did?

5. One reason Lucien helped Jews was to get architectural commissions from Manet. Did you agree with the French Resistance? Did Lucien’s love of design and the need to prove his talent cross the line into collaboration with the enemy?

6. Most fiction and films portray Nazis as monsters during World War II. Do you believe that some German military men secretly hated or doubted what they were doing? Does following the crowd make these men just as bad as those who carried out their duties without conscience?

7. Discuss the unusual relationship between Lucien and Herzog. Can two men from warring countries be friends?

8. Lucien was already taking an enormous risk by hiding Jews for Manet; why do you think he agreed to take in Pierre?

9. What was your impression of Father Jacques? What kind of role do you think faith plays throughout the novel?

10. Adele had no qualms about sleeping with the enemy. Why would she take such a risk?

11. Bette could have her pick of men but chose Lucien. Discuss what made him special in her eyes. What are the most important qualities you look for in a friend/significant other? Would you be willing to compromise on any of these qualities? For what?

12. If you were a Gentile living under the Nazis in World War II, do you think you would have had the courage to hide Jews? What consequences are you willing to face to help others?

13. It’s easy to say, knowing what we do about the horrors that occurred during WWII, that we would have helped Jews with nowhere to hide. How do you think you’d react if a similar situation occurred today? Do you think it’s even possible for a similar situation to occur in our day and age? Why? Why not?

14. Suppose you had been taken from your apartment by Captain Bruckner and lined up in the street. If you knew your life was about to end, what would you be thinking about?

15. If you were under the stairs in the Geibers’ place during the Gestapo’s search, how would you have reacted?

16. Schlegal was disappointed that the people he tortured always talked. What do you think were the motivations behind someone who talked and someone who didn't? If you were in a situation where someone was trying to get information from you, what would be the final straw to make you talk?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

"I love that in The Paris Architect, a mercenary, talented man's passion for his creative work leads him down moral roads he never could have envisioned. The ingenious hiding spaces and the people in them infiltrated my imagination for weeks. I dreamed about this novel." - Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers

"Belfoure writes like an up-and-coming Ken Follett ... There's plenty of detail to interest architecture buffs, too.

" - Booklist

"A beautiful and elegant account of an ordinary man's unexpected and reluctant descent into heroism during the second world war. " - Malcolm Gladwell

"A vivid, suspenseful story which keeps you gripped to the very last page. Charles Belfoure writes with great warmth, conjuring up an intriguing cast of characters, and painting a fascinating picture of Paris under the Occupation, with all its contradictions — the opulence, and the fear." - Margaret Leroy, author of The Soldier's Wife

"In architect Belfoure's fiction debut, the architectural and historical details are closely rendered ... A satisfyingly streamlined World War II thriller." - Kirkus

"A gripping page-turner... Charles Belfoure shines a light on the human heart -- a complex maze of love, hope, and the yearning for redemption -- and in doing so, provides a riveting reminder of sacrifices made by history's most unlikely heroes to triumph over evil." - Kristina McMorris, author of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves

"Charles Belfoure's historical thriller delivers the suspense of Schindler's List and the German-occupied Paris of Alan Furst in this tense tale of an architect hiding Jews from the Nazis." - Julie Kramer, author of Shunning Sarah and Stalking Susan

"All novelists are architects. But are all architects novelists? Charles Belfoure in his impressive debut seems to have brought us the best of both worlds. Here is a novel to read alongside the latest Alan Furst. I hope there will be more." - Alan Cheuse, Novelist and NPR book commentator

Book Club Recommendations

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by jean s. (see profile) 03/15/23

by dominique r. (see profile) 09/12/20

by Kelly F. (see profile) 08/07/20

by Stephanie L. (see profile) 11/15/19

by Chriss G. (see profile) 07/30/19

by Genevieve R. (see profile) 12/05/18

by JoAnn L. (see profile) 04/20/17

  "Great for a bookclub discimussion"by Chary P. (see profile) 01/13/17

The writting is not very good but the story is engaging enough

  "The Paris Architect"by Judith E. (see profile) 08/25/16

Excellent read! It made me stop to think if I would have the courage and character to help Jews when the penalties for doing so were torture and probably death to myself and my family.

  "The Paris Archtect"by Beth Ann M. (see profile) 08/25/16

This book touched my heart. I actually shed a tear at the end!

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