In 1942 Paris, architect Lucien Bernard accepts a commission that will bring him a great deal of money-- and maybe get him killed. 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. 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.
Lucien is written extremely well – he’s not perfect by any means. His courage grows slowly over the course of the novel, his willingness to help the Jews built up in tiny layers. Herzog is similarly revealed, bit by bit, to be quite a sympathetic character and the way that Lucien trusts him without really knowing if he can keeps the reader in suspense. As do any number of other ways that the Nazis are about to catch up with Lucien do – at one point I glanced at the progress bar on the Kindle, thinking the remaining 21% were a bit too long if Lucien was going to die in this episode which seemed certain to result in his death, but maybe if there was a long torture, or we spent proportionally more time with the characters, or we followed him to Drancy and the camps in Poland...
The women in this novel were somewhat one-dimensional (the wife, the lover, the mother), but still well-written. Bette in particular develops well as a character – and this is something that AUTHOR does very well; weaving in different characters and giving them waxing or waning significance as the story progresses.
Belfoure conveys wartime Paris very well – the rations, the long queues for food, the black market in butter and chicken, the overarching fear of the plain clothes Gestapo in their fedoras. I found some of the torture scenes overly graphic – but it’s torture, it’s supposed to be, and it lent a gritty undercurrent to a novel set in a horrific era which otherwise.
Recommended, but bring a strong stomach.
The hero is an architect named Lucien Bernard who had deserted from the French Army along with many other officers when their post along the Maginot Line was not attacked by the Germans who had circled around the end. The French destroyed their uniforms and military IDs, and quietly melted into the civilian population. Soon he was back in Paris with his wife and no one the wiser. Being in Paris was horrible during the German occupation though. There was little food, people stood in line for hours only to find the shelves empty, or that the inflated price was more than they had. They kept rabbits in a hutch on the balcony so they could have meat occasionally. Bernard could find no work, and his marriage failed with the stress.
Then a wealthy French manufacturer contacted him about a job. Bernard soon found himself earning fabulous amounts of money, but the jobs were not only factories. They were also jobs that could get him tortured and killed: hiding places for Jews while they awaited transport to Switzerland or Spain. Bernard is terrified but also excited at the prospect of fooling the Germans, and it turns out that he has a gift for it.
As the story progresses we see terrible acts of violence with German soldiers laughing at the pain and terror they cause. Bernard is alternately proud and scared out of his mind, and so is the reader. I was totally wrapped up in this book, even dreaming about it. Meanwhile, he comes to care about the people he is protecting and enjoy the frustration of the searchers.
The Bernard he becomes makes me wonder whether I could possibly be that courageous, inventive, and loving. It's a wonderful tale of the power of love and decency to overcome evil, but this is no fairy tale with a happy ending. It's believable, moving, and exhausting.
Source: Amazon Vine
I'm tired of reading about rich people who only care about
The characters though are for the most part not likable or I just could not relate to them in a way that made me really care what happened to them. Lucien's mistress and anything to do with her I dislike immensely and wished it had not been part of the story. The prose itself, except for the aforementioned parts is just okay, uneven at times, almost awkward at others. Wanted to like this more than I did but felt it was worth reading if just for the detailed descriptions of architecture, that part was most interesting.
ARC from NetGalley.
Then I thought - about how fortunate I've been by luck of birth and country. I don't normally give up on any book I've started and it would be a chicken-hearted thing to give up on the author's well-crafted depictions of characters and events.
* SPOILER * SPOILER *
The book does end with surprise and with hope and redemption.
So, be a bit brave and read this. I picked it up for the intrigue of the architect devising hiding places and the architectural story-line is well done, as well.
Life definitely was not the same as before. You had to watch everything you said and
Lucien feared for his life but couldn't pass up this offer. Lucien agreed only because he had no money, and because he would be paid a large sum.
You will feel Lucien's fear as he is doing something he loves, but also considering whether it is worth the cost of his life if he gets caught. You will grow to love Lucien as his truly caring side comes out in the uncaring society of this era.
You will become immersed in Paris's new way of life that had to be endured, and you will share the fear of the citizens as they waited for the dreaded knock on the door looking for Jewish residents or for a French citizen who was hiding a Jewish citizen.
The horrors of occupation will be with you as you read as well as become involved with the authentic characters and marvelous writing style. The characters were perfectly portrayed from the deviousness and cruelty of the Gestapo to the cowering citizens. The author has an easy style and draws you right into the story.
THE PARIS ARCHITECT is another WWII tale but with a different twist and one where the tension builds and your fear for Lucien increases as you rapidly turn the pages.
This is an excellent historical fiction book with some graphic scenes that depict the atrocities of WWII, but will hold your interest until the last word because of the characters and their stories. 5/5
This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Despite some excess blood, Lucien makes it to his appointment; he is meeting a man of means who offers him two commissions. He cannot take one without the other. One is for a large factory, the other for a secret room in which to hide someone. A room that will never be discovered no matter how well a house is searched; rather like the "priest holes" of yore. Lucien needs the money and he wants the challenge so he accepts. Little does he know how it will affect him.
This first novel by Mr. Belfoure takes on a very difficult subject in a very troubling time in the history of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. His architect's eye translates well to fiction and it allows his reader to experience the beauty of the buildings and the space of the city. His characters are not perfect and some of them seem to just disappear into the night but Lucien shows remarkable development and growth. He is the lodestar of the novel and it all really rests upon him. Trying times cause great change in people collectively and individually and that is shown to great effect in this arresting tale of one man's efforts to fight evil.
It was a book that I found hard to put down even when reading the more disturbing passages. It is not a perfect book but it is a book that certainly left me thinking.
The book is very well-written even if the plot is a bit predictable. Lucien starts to care about the people he is hiding and becomes horrified by the atrocities inflicted on the Jews, who, as it turns out, are actually people, too. The characters are a bit predictable. A very evil Gestapo officer and a German officer who actually has some sympathy. The predictability is what makes this a good read instead of a great read. I would recommend it but probably not to people who only read lit-fic. I will be interested to see what the author writes next. This was his first fictional novel and is much better than some other debut work I have read. Belfoure could easily write a great novel.
In some regards, each of the characters is an archetype. Colonel Schlegel is so extreme in his hatred and vengeance. Lucien’s mistress, Adele, is too mercenary in her ambition. Manet is too enigmatic in his compassion and contradictory collaboration. Yet, these archetypes provide readers with a well-rounded view of the personalities at play during the Nazi occupation. While Schlegel may be fanatical in his hatred and single-mindedness and not every Nazi was quite as vitriolic as he is, there were still plenty of Germans who did fit Schlegel’s description. Conversely, Adele, Manet, and even Lucien are at the other end of the spectrum, struggling to survive, if not thrive, during the Nazi regime by having to balance the appearance of resistance with collaborative actions. One has no doubt that even if they are fictional characters, similar real-life people could easily be found. Even the Jews that flit onto and out of scenes with regularity are no more than caricatures as they show the wealthy and formerly powerful minority with the means to escape the tightening Nazi snare. Still, the generic impressions left by these one-dimensional characters drives the plot better than any fully-developed character because one knows what to expect from them. There are no doubts to Schlegel’s propensity for extreme behavior, or Adele’s greed, or Manet’s bribery skills. This general understanding of these secondary characters allows readers to focus on the real drama taking place within Lucien.
The Paris Architect is not all doom-and-gloom, although it is easy to get sucked down into the despair that comes with a seemingly hopeless situation. As Lucien evolves from the self-centered egoist to genuine humanitarian, the faith generated by his invisible hiding spots, as well as the courage of those hiding in such spots, infuses the entire story with hope – hope that good will prevail, that humanity’s compassion will out match mankind’s cruelty, that even the bleakest of situations is survivable in some regards and that all bad deeds are punishable. Lucien may be somewhat detestable in the beginning with his hatred of his wife, his anti-Semitism, his mistress, and especially his greed, but he definitely undertakes a metamorphosis that peels away the negative influences of his life and allows him to show readers his true self. In that aspect, The Paris Architect is a beautiful story of change, an adult’s coming-of-age story.
The action is fierce, the pacing blindingly fast, and the architectural details intricate. Combined with the thoroughly developed Lucien and his generic secondary cast, these elements create a novel that is spectacular in its scope and vivid in its imagery. The Paris Architect may be a glimpse into a significant, life-altering period in time in Paris’ long history of existence, but it is also a fascinating study in human nature and the broad spectrum of behavior one can find in any population. For all his faults, Lucien crawls under a reader’s skin and makes one care about his flaws as well as his innate goodness. The emphasis on people rather than on ideology makes it easy for readers to get lost in the plot, so absorbed in what is happening that the ending comes as a shock. With all this in its favor, it is no wonder The Paris Architect is October’s Indie Pick as well as a Bloggers Recommend selection for October.
However, within the blink of an eye, this self-centered man changes completely. One of the hiding places of which he's so proud fails, and normally a person of his character and attitude would feel badly and either stop accepting further commissions or resolve that future projects will contain no errors. Instead, Bernard does a complete about-face. He's filled with empathy and compassion, and he thinks nothing of risking his own life to save Jews-- when he didn't particularly care for them in the first place. It's too big of a change too quickly, and unfortunately-- although I applauded the fact that the man found the courage to do what was right-- it just wasn't believable.
I especially enjoyed the author's specialty, architecture, in the novel. He's able to describe the details of the homes and halls of the novel in a way that transports the readers right there into the rooms with the characters. The ways the author uses architecture as well in Lucien's hiding schemes was clever as heck. I was fascinated to see how many different ways Lucien was able to find to transform a simple architectural detail into a life-saving device.
The place where this book really shines, however, are the characters. Lucien stole my heart from how real and three dimensional he felt. His growth from a callous individual only concentrating on his own survival and self interests to a man who starts to see the larger world and wanting to take action against the harshness blew my mind. He's one of the more complex individuals I've read about recently and I loved him for it.
The secondary characters didn't suffer from lack of characterization either. Everybody had their own foibles, complexities, and personalities. I adored Bette and her sexy and caring persona; there was a lot hiding behind that lovely exterior. Pierre surprised me more than once with his actions, developing into a man so early in life to deal with the horrors of his times and taking some very adult actions to protect those he loves. Herzog was not your typical German. His love of architecture, his friendship with Lucien, and his surprising actions towards the end of the novel made me love to read his character.
I only wish the novel had ended on such a strong note as the rest of the book. I was left wanting so much more than I was given. I felt like the book needed more resolution than I got, and I had some unanswered questions that I really wanted answers for.
This book really stands as a wonderful example of Holocaust and WWII fiction. It's got a suspenseful story, a vivid setting, and characters that you'll love. Despite some issues with the sudden ending, I devoured this bad boy in only a day. And that to me says how much I ultimately came to like this book.
At the beginning of the story Lucien feels nothing but disdain for Jews and can't conceive why Christians would risk their lies to hid them. As the story progresses he becomes more sympathetic and devoted to their safety. The more he does the more danger he faces and the more tension is felt as the reader grows concerned for him. His wife, Celeste, leaves him, and his mistress, Adele, is also meeting with a Gestapo officer so he is left with only his new friends and lots of secrets. He fears he will not be able to withstand the style of questioning the Gestapo is famous for and that he will give away all he knows if he is captured. When his new bright assistant turns out to be sympathetic to the Nazis, that danger gets closer and closer.
This book is not as thick and convoluted as books by Uris and other authors but the slow growth of tension and fear grows. This reader was always sure something bad would happen. The 384 pages flew by.
This is an unusual story that provides an excellent depiction of the tension in occupied Paris, particularly of those hiding from the reach of the
Lucien (the architect)is quite an anti-hero, but as the story unfolds you start to learn a lot more about him. I don't want to give too much away, but this is one of the best reads I've had this year.
A fascinating and quite haunting read.
A cat and mouse interplay with the Gestapo chief ensues. The Gestapo chief becomes aware that someone is creating these ingenious hiding spots and obsessively works to find out who is behind it. Lucian becomes close to a German engineer officer working with him on the munitions factory.
The plot unfolds in a realistically plausible fashion leading to an exciting ending.
The story is a study of how Lucien works through and grows in this moral thicket, and how it changes him over time. The architectural descriptions were compelling, the views of war-time Paris readable, and the characters worth knowing. It's inevitable that the reader ends with soul-searching. How would I have behaved in similar circumstances?
The author of this life or death novel pulls no punches: the German soldiers and Gestapo are ruthless, the French betray their fellow citizens, the Resistance doesn’t care about collateral damage, and there is torture, derogatory foul language, and sexual content—definitely rated R; and yet it is true to life at that time period during the war. It’s in the rank of Schindlers’ List and Sophie’s Choice. There is some light at the end of the sewer. You will definitely be left with the question “What would I do?” There are many memorable characters, each with their own choices to make. I liked this book, but preferred reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom about what happened to her family during the war in Holland. I’ll need to read something lighter after this: a palate cleanser. 4 stars and a thank you for letting us see this war through an architect’s eyes.