I received a copy of The Forgotten Bookshop in Paris by Daisy Wood from NetGalley. The book is a historical fiction set during the World War II Nazi Occupation of France in Paris. I am immensely interested in anything historical which was the main draw of this book for me.
The Forgotten Bookshop in Paris has two timelines that run parallel. The first timeline is set in Paris during World War II, and the second is set in 2022 Paris. Jacques Duval is a simple man living in Paris who loves books and dreams of opening his own bookshop. He fulfills his dream and opens La Page Cachèe. He is in love with Mathilde, and they get married at the start of the war. Mathilde joins the resistance, which lands her in trouble, and she has to leave Paris and Jacques behind.
Juliette is on a vacation in Paris with her husband. Her maternal grandmother was French, and she had a framed picture of a square in Paris in her bedroom. Juliette wants to find that square and feel closer to her deceased grandmother and recently deceased mother. She finds out about her husband Kevin’s affair on their last evening in Paris and decides to stay back, instead of flying back to America. She is in emotional turmoil, but she decides to experience everything Paris has to offer. She meets new people, learns French, and finally finds an abandoned bookshop in the same square as the picture in her grandmother’s room and decides to open a bookshop of her own in the space.
Daisy Wood has done a great job of keeping the two timelines separate yet relevant to each other. The disturbing time and environment under occupation in Paris and the present time show a stark contrast. There are connections to the past with Juliette’s new friends, especially Nico whose grandmother’s apartment Juliette rents, and she has lived through the war. Jacques just wants to keep his head down and get through this difficult time without causing any trouble. Mathilde wants to fight in any way she can and joins the resistance. After she leaves Paris, Jacques is a little lost, but soon he joins the resistance and saves many lives.
The characters in the story are the best part of this book. The historical context has been done complete justice, and it doesn’t exactly shy away from the terrible circumstances. Jacques reluctant to cause trouble in the beginning goes out of his way to save people by the end. It is a beautiful journey. He thinks about what his wife would do and finds strength in himself he didn’t know he had. He is brave and kind in a time when that could get you killed. I liked how Mathilde and his relationship is portrayed. Sadly, they don’t have much time together, but there is no question about their love and loyalty to each other even when they are apart. The past timeline of the book is emotional, and the ending is so sad.
Juliette has always done things she needed to do. With her separation and her kids busy in their own lives now, she finally does what she wants. She stays behind in a new country and tries to find herself again. The bookshop gives her a renewed sense of purpose. Her relationships improve with her kids over time, and she makes new friends and even falls in love with Nico. The past starts inching closer to the characters in the present, and I loved how the two timelines finally intertwined. All the main characters Juliette, Jacques, Nico, and Mathilde have an interconnected past. It all comes together in a way I hadn’t expected.
The Forgotten Bookshop in Paris by Daisy is an amazing book. The book tugs at your heart and you can connect to every character and root for them. I loved reading the book, but it’s also emotionally draining; in a good way though. It’s a historical fiction that has romance, relationships, loss, self-discovery, and it’s emotional. It is one of my favorite books of the year so far.
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