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 events
Includes discussion questions for book clubs, a historical timeline, and notes from the author
Book length: 368 pages
Tell us a bit about yourself:
By trade, I am a hairstylist and make-up artist as well as a qualified Christian-counsellor. Coco Chanel said “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life”…I love that I get to play a part in women’s lives in changing their hair for the better. I’ve been married to Michael for 9 years and am a dog-mom to three special needs rescue dogs (special needs in the sense of rescue dogs can often be complicated and we’ve got 3 of them). My husband and I have the privilege of serving on the Eldership team at Venture Church in Fairland, Johannesburg. It truly is a privilege to journey with people and walking out all God has for them.
Name of Book:
The Librarian of Saint-Malo – a novel
What drew you to read this book:
A friend suggested it to me, knowing I’ve been enjoying stories and biographies from World War 2. This is also the first WW2 book I’ve read that is set in France, as Saint-Malo is a port city in France’s northwest.
What impact did this book have:
As you can imagine, any story from World War 2 can only be tragic. The loss of lives, loved ones, neighbors, homes and everything of your town that you once loved, destroyed over a span of four years due to the enemy’s occupation. This book is based around the librarian of the library in Saint-Malo. During the occupation around the world, there were certain authors and their books that were banned and therefore completely destroyed. Here you have a librarian doing everything in her power to protect the most priceless books from the Nazis whilst not knowing if her husband will return from war.
In a paragraph, what is the main point of the book:
It’s difficult to pinpoint a main point within this novel, so I’ll share a few that stood out to me. Bombs have the ability to force a sense of community unlike anything anyone has experienced before. We work so hard to accumulate things, to achieve, to triumph; but the real victory is always and only love, in giving yourself away and expecting nothing in return, in forgiving and making the world a better place. Also the importance of books and reading. Books have a mission and that mission is to make us free. Learning, knowing and discovering make us free.
Who would benefit from reading this book:
Anyone who enjoys a historical novel and beautifully written words.
All comments are writers own.
Published by Thomas Nelson and distributed by Struik Christian Media.