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The Paris Architect: A Novel

The Paris Architect: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Charles Belfoure
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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"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

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. --Publisher Weekly 10.06.13

I read so many books this year that I loved Jeremy Adelman's biography of Albert O Hirschman, Worldly Philosopher (Princeton University Press), David Epstein's The Sports Gene (Yellow Jersey), and Jonathan Dee's magnificent A Thousand Pardons (Corsair) but my favourite was a novel I picked up entirely randomly, in an airport bookstore: The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (Sourcebooks Landmark). It is a beautiful and elegant account of an ordinary man's unexpected and reluctant descent into heroism during the second world war. I have no idea who Belfoure is, but he needs to write another book, now! --Malcolm Gladwell, The Guardian 25.11.13

Product Description

"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.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1649 KB
  • Print Length: 383 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (8 Oct 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #11,788 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Man proposes, war disposes. 28 Feb 2014
By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is a compelling story set in Nazi-occupied Paris during the Second World War. Lucien is a talented out-of-work architect, a cowardly man of questionable morals although he is, at least, self-aware. The book opens with a wealthy industrialist, Manet, offering Lucien a small project to create a disguised hiding space in an apartment for a Jewish friend.

Lucien is tempted by the proffered fee but too scared to get involved. But then Manet dangles the carrot of designing a new factory for him, contingent on his agreement to the smaller commission. Will Lucien's fear force him to turn down this golden opportunity to prove his architectural chops or will he be enticed into a treacherous world where one false step will mean certain death at the hands of the Gestapo?

That is just the starting point and it's a terrific tale. Unfortunately, the telling of it leaves a lot to be desired. Clunky exposition, unnatural-sounding dialogue and heavy-handed characterisation all conspire to turn this five star story into a three star read. That averages out at 4*. A shame, as this could have been absolutely brilliant. It will be interesting to see how Charles Belfoure follows his promising debut.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What would you risk to do the right thing? 3 Jan 2014
By Julia Flyte TOP 50 REVIEWER
I loved this book. It's set in one of my favourite historical times and it's a very well written and compelling story about everyday French people who are willing to take incredible risks to protect Jews from the Germans.

It's 1942 and Paris is under occupation by the Germans. Lucien Bernard is a French architect who is asked to design a hiding place in a luxurious apartment, allowing a Jew to remain concealed from the Gestapo. Initially reluctant, knowing the immense danger that the assignment puts him in, Lucien accepts the job after being offered the opportunity for other, legal, work. Gradually over the coming months his attitudes towards Jews change and he will take on more and more risks, despite the constant threats of betrayal from those around him. Paris is full of people who will betray others to save their own skin. Plus his mistress is sleeping with a Gestapo officer, a worker in his office has Gestapo connections and a German colonel is keen to strike up a friendship.

This is a terrific story set in a fascinating time in history. It's very well researched and over the course of the book I learned a great deal about topics such as the French fashion industry during the war, life in occupied France, the French Resistance and of course architecture. (The author is himself an architect who has written books on architectural history). The characters are all interesting as well. Lucien is a complex individual who isn't initially terribly likeable. It moves at a good pace and doesn't allow you to guess where the story will go.

Be aware that there are some graphic torture scenes that had me wincing!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An amoral opportunist grows a conscience - 3+ 18 Oct 2013
By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWER TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
I found "The Paris Architect" to be a good debut novel, largely because of its main plot element--the creation of architecturally-based hiding places for Jews during the Nazi occupation of Paris.

Author Charles Belfoure is a professional architect and knows a good deal about architectural preservation. His story reflects that expertise as it explains in detail how historic French buildings could be (probably were) modified to shelter people from the Germans. Equally strong and credible is Belfoure's exploration of French anti-Semitism and reaction to the stress of foreign occupation (circa 1942). It all makes for a good platform to spin out the saga of one talented but struggling French architect--Lucien Bernard--who is pulled into the sheltering of refugees from pursuing Gestapo agents and their French allies. Bernard's motivation for this dangerous political game begins as nothing more than economic necessity, but soon evolves into enjoyment of the professional challenge. He is initially blind to its moral or humanitarian elements. He is, in fact, also soon to be working on the designs for Nazi-ordered war factories being constructed in France. He sees no moral contradiction in this collaboration.

Where this novel has some weakness is around the protagonist's change of motivation and the appearance of a moral compass. He becomes far more than an accomplice in the Jewish rescue effort after a point of crisis in the story. I think that this conversion would have been easier to accept if his character had been a bit stronger from the beginning. It's a little hard to accept the reversal of feeling from someone who has previously been presented as the ultimate opportunist and self-justifier.
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