Libraries are being ransacked. France is torn apart by war. A French librarian is determined to resist. Told through smuggled letters to an author, an ordinary librarian describes the brutal Nazi occupation of her small coastal village and the extraordinary measures she takes to fight back.
Saint-Malo, France: August 1939. Jocelyn and Antoine are childhood sweethearts, but just after they marry, Antoine is drafted to fight against Germany. As World War II rages, Jocelyn uses her position as a librarian in her town of Saint-Malo to comfort and encourage her community with books. Jocelyn begins to write secret letters smuggled to a famous Parisian author, telling her story in the hope that it will someday reach the outside world.
France falls and the Nazis occupy Jocelyn's town, turning it into a fortress. The townspeople try passive resistance, but the German commander ruthlessly begins to destroy part of the city's libraries. Books deemed unsuitable by the Nazis are burnt or stolen, and priceless knowledge is lost.
Risking arrest and even her life, Jocelyn manages to hide some of the books while desperately waiting to receive news from her husband Antoine, now a prisoner in a German camp.
Jocelyn's mission unfolds in her letters: to protect the people of Saint-Malo and the books they hold so dear. Mario Escobar brings to life the occupied city in sweeping and romantic prose, re-creating the history of those who sacrificed all to care for the people they loved.
World War II historical fiction inspired by true eventsIncludes discussion questions for book clubs, a historical timeline, and notes from the authorBook length: 368 pages
In Escobar's gripping latest (after Remember Me), a young woman risks everything to save a library in Saint-Malo, France, during WWII. Librarian Jocelyn marries police sergeant Antoine Ferrec on Sept. 1, 1939, the same day the Germans invade Poland to begin WWII. The story is told via Jocelyn's letters to famous writer Marcel Zola, whom she hopes will preserve her experiences during the war after Antoine leaves her alone to organize the assistance of refugees in the library. After the Nazi occupation begins, Jocelyn is forced to house Adolf Bauman, a demanding and lecherous Nazi officer, in her apartment, and soon she learns the Germans plan to destroy many of the books in the library. Meanwhile, another German officer, Hermann von Choltiz, whose mission is to safeguard the heritage of occupied countries, becomes Jocelyn's protector, saving her from Bauman's advances and the books from destruction. While Jocelyn's sole purpose is to preserve the books, she also must pray for a better future, as many loved ones are killed and lives will need to be rebuilt. This is a powerful portrait of a woman fighting to preserve knowledge in a crumbling world.
Everyone wants to conquer her, but she resists. They may occupy her streets but never her soul. Saint-Malo will be free so long as we keep tending her fire in our hearts.
Jocelyn Ferrec lives in a small town on the northern coast of France. The war has already affected the lives of many, but the heart of Saint-Malo stays alive due to the diligence of its librarian, Jocelyn. Letters written to author Marcel Zola bring to life the struggle to maintain this most important part of the town. Some survive, many do not, but history brings it all alive.
Life takes on meaning when we dedicate it to others. This well written book is one you will long remember. How much meaning is in our daily lives?
An ARC was received through HarperCollins, Thomas Nelson and NetGalley. These comments and impressions are my own and were in no way solicited