The Paris architect A novel

Charles Belfoure, 1954-

Book - 2013

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Historical fiction
Naperville, Illinois : Sourcebooks Landmark [2013]
Physical Description
371 pages : map ; 24 cm
Main Author
Charles Belfoure, 1954- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Belfoure's suspenseful and commercially oriented debut, set in 1942 Paris, follows a self-centered, ambitious man as he develops a moral conscience. When a rich businessman persuades architect Lucien Bernard to adapt an apartment to create a hiding place for a wealthy Jew, he takes it as a challenge. Despite the dangers, Lucien likes fooling the occupying Germans, the money is excellent, and it comes with a lucrative opportunity to design a new factory for the Reich. Tensions rise as he gets drawn deeply into the plans of both the occupiers and the Resistance. After one careless mistake results in tragedy, however, he begins reevaluating his life. The plot doesn't skimp on evoking the constant fear the Parisians face or the brutality the Jews encounter. Food is scarce, black market goods are costly, and neighbors rat one another out to save their own necks. With his unadorned, zippy style and broad-brush characters, Belfoure writes like an up-and-coming Ken Follett but with more sex and violence and stronger language. There's plenty of detail to interest architecture buffs, too. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In 1942 Paris, architect Lucien Bernard hates the occupying Germans but feels no love for the Jews, who have been asked to surrender to authorities. Times are tough, though, and Lucien takes on a dangerous job designing hiding spots for Jews. While he's initially motivated by the challenge and the satisfaction of outsmarting the Germans, the job becomes unexpectedly personal when tragedy strikes an occupant in one of his designs. Lucien suddenly sees the plight of the Jews through new eyes, and as he begins believing in the importance of the mission, he realizes he's not only saving them, he's saving himself. VERDICT Architect and debut author Belfoure's portrayal of Vichy France is both disturbing and captivating, and his beautiful tale demonstrates that while human beings are capable of great atrocities, they have a capacity for tremendous acts of courage as well. Readers will root for Lucien as he risks his life and discovers strength and character he never knew he had. Some sensitive readers may take offense to characters' language and attitudes toward Jews.—Vicki Briner, City Coll. Lib., Fort Lauderdale, FL [Page 78]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

How far would you go to help a stranger? What would you risk? Would you trade your life for another's in the name of what is right? Belfoure explores these questions and others in this debut novel set in Paris during the Nazi occupation. Lucien Bernard—who, like the book's author, is an architect—is offered a large sum of money to outsmart the Gestapo by devising unique hiding places for Jews, though he knows that anyone caught helping them will be tortured and killed by the Germans. Danger is everywhere: Lucien's mistress, Adele, a successful fashion designer, has an affair with a Gestapo colonel. Lucien's new assistant will betray him in a heartbeat. Offered a juicy German factory commission that involves working with a Nazi officer who admires architecture and art, Lucien's web weaves more complexly. And when he falls in love with Adele's assistant, rescues a child, and contacts some of the individuals he's saved, the stakes grow higher and Lucien's thoughts turn from money to vengeance. Seamlessly integrated architectural details add to the excitement. Belfoure's characters are well-rounded and intricate. Heart, reluctant heroism, and art blend together in this spine-chilling page-turner. Agent: Susan Ginsburg, Writers House. (Oct.) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A Parisian architect is paid handsomely to devise secret hiding spaces for Jews in his Nazi-occupied country but struggles with risking his life for a cause he is ambivalent towards, until a personal failure brings home their suffering.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A gifted architect reluctantly begins a secret life devising ingenious hiding places for Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris 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.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The New York Times bestseller"A beautiful and elegant account of an ordinary man's unexpected and reluctant descent into heroism during the second world war." —Malcolm GladwellA 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.