The Paris Architect
October 2013 Indie Next List
— Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, WA
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THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
An extraordinary book about a gifted architect who reluctantly begins a secret life of resistance, devising ingenious hiding places for Jews in World War II Paris.
In 1942 Paris, architect Lucien Bernard accepts a commission that will bring him a great deal of money--and maybe get him killed. All he has to do is design a secret hiding place for a Jewish man, a space so invisible that even the most determined German officer won't find it while World War II rages on. He sorely needs the money, and outwitting the Nazis who have occupied his beloved city is a challenge he can't resist.
Soon Lucien is hiding more souls and saving lives. But when one of his hideouts fails horribly, and the problem of where to conceal a Jew becomes much more personal, and he can no longer ignore what's at stake.
"A beautiful and elegant account of an ordinary man's unexpected and reluctant descent into heroism during the second world war."--Malcolm Gladwell
Book clubs will pore over the questions Charles Belfoure raises about justice, resistance, and just how far we'll go to make things right.
Also by Charles Belfoure:
The Fallen Architect
House of Thieves
Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781402294150, 374pp.
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Why did the majority of people in France refuse to help the Jews during World War II?
2. In the beginning of the novel, Lucien didn’t care about what happened to the Jews. Discuss how his character evolved throughout the novel. How did your opinion of him change?
3. The Germans were disgusted that the French always informed on one another during the Occupation. Would you assume that this is a common war practice? Why? In what ways does war bring out the worst in people? In what ways does it bring out the best in people?
4. Many spouses abandoned each other because one was Jewish. What did you think when Juliette Trenet’s husband left her? Is there any defense for what he did?
5. One reason Lucien helped Jews was to get architectural commissions from Manet. Did you agree with the French Resistance? Did Lucien’s love of design and the need to prove his talent cross the line into collaboration with the enemy?
6. Most fiction and films portray Nazis as monsters during World War II. Do you believe that some German military men secretly hated or doubted what they were doing? Does following the crowd make these men just as bad as those who carried out their duties without conscience?
7. Discuss the unusual relationship between Lucien and Herzog. Can two men from warring countries be friends?
8. Lucien was already taking an enormous risk by hiding Jews for Manet; why do you think he agreed to take in Pierre?
9. What was your impression of Father Jacques? What kind of role do you think faith plays throughout the novel?
10. Adele had no qualms about sleeping with the enemy. Why would she take such a risk?
11. Bette could have her pick of men but chose Lucien. Discuss what made him special in her eyes. What are the most important qualities you look for in a friend/significant other? Would you be willing to compromise on any of these qualities? For what?
12. If you were a Gentile living under the Nazis in World War II, do you think you would have had the courage to hide Jews? What consequences are you willing to face to help others?
13. It’s easy to say, knowing what we do about the horrors that occurred during WWII, that we would have helped Jews with nowhere to hide. How do you think you’d react if a similar situation occurred today? Do you think it’s even possible for a similar situation to occur in our day and age? Why? Why not?
14. Suppose you had been taken from your apartment by Captain Bruckner and lined up in the street. If you knew your life was about to end, what would you be thinking about?
15. If you were under the stairs in the Geibers’ place during the Gestapo’s search, how would you have reacted?
16. Schlegal was disappointed that the people he tortured always talked. What do you think were the motivations behind someone who talked and someone who didn’t? If you were in a situation where someone was trying to get information from you, what would be the final straw to make you talk?