Wednesday 15 September 2021

The Librarian of Saint-Malo

Finished September 13 
The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar, translated by Gretchen Abernathy

Set during the Second World War, the book is focused on Jocelyn Ferrec who has recently been hired to run the town library. But she has bad luck. After getting engaged to be married, she has contracted tuberculosis and her health is affected. She gets married anyway, but her wedding day is the day that Germany invades Poland, and war will eventually come to her as well. 
Jocelyn tells her tale through letters to a famous French author that she admires, Marcel Dumas, and sends them to him by private courier when she can manage it. Somehow this makes her feel better even when her situation is dire.
From German occupation to threats against her person and the books she cares so much about, Jocelyn must fight where she can, take action where she can do so, and try to hide the books she fears will be destroyed or plundered. 
Besides Jocelyn, there is Celine, the librarian that Jocelyn took over from, her bookseller friend Denis, the local doctor and other neighbours. Some seem eager to cooperate with the Germans, others find ways to make trouble for them. Jocelyn, while she believes strongly in the power of books, doesn't believe that her friends lives are worth more than them. 
This was an interesting premise of a story, but it didn't grab me like I expected. Thinking about it, I found that it had action and drama, with the characters displaying lots of emotion, but it lacked depth. The ease of movement of some of the characters seemed unlikely, and many things weren't explained very well. I think there are many better books about this time period in the genre. 

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