Check It Out Category: Historical Fiction

Book Discussion Questions: The Paris Architect

Tthe paris architect book coveritle: The Paris Architect
Author: Charles Belfoure
Page Count: 388 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Suspenseful

Summary: A Parisian architect is paid handsomely to devise secret hiding spaces for Jews in his Nazi-occupied country but struggles with risking his life for a cause he is ambivalent towards, until a personal failure brings home their suffering.

 

 

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2019 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

  1. 1. The story begins with Lucien Bernard rounding a corner at the Rue La Boetie and a man almost collides with him. The man is almost immediately shot down by the German soldiers.  What did you think of Lucien’s reaction to this and did it set a tone for his character?
  2. 2. Lucien is an out of work architect, desperate for work. He meets with Auguste Manet who asks him to build a hiding space for a Jewish man being hunted by the Gestapo.  Let’s talk about this interaction.
  3. 3. What did you think about Celeste and Lucien’s relationship?
  4. 4. Collaboration was a very sensitive topic for the French. Let’s talk about this
  5. 5. Let’s talk about Adele, Lucien’s mistress.
  6. 6. “The Occupation hadn’t just bred hatred of Jews; it had brought out the very worst in human beings, neighbor against neighbor and even friend against friend. People would screw over each other for a lump of butter”.  Let’s discuss.
  7. 7. It was dangerous to hide Jewish people. What did you think of anyone hiding a Jewish person? Would you?
  8. 8. What did you think about Celeste’s reaction when Lucien admitted that he had saved two Jewish people?
  9. 9. Let’s talk about some of the German characters, did any stand out? If so why?
  10. 10. Most WW2 fiction, including this book, seems to portray most Germans in a less than pleasant light. What do you think of this?
  11. 11. The book is a series of vignettes describing the plight of Jewish people that were hiding. Did any of the stories particularly strike you?
  12. 12. Did you imagine yourself in any of the situations the Jewish people found themselves in? What would you have done if Captain Bruckner lined up the people in your neighborhood or you were forced to hide under a set of stairs?
  13. 13. We meet Adele’s right-hand “man”, Bette Tullard. Let’s talk about her.
  14. 14. Why do you think it was so important to Schlegel to find any hidden Jews?
  15. 15. Let’s talk about Father Jacques, the priest that took in Pierre.
  16. 16. Lucien ended up loving Pierre like a son. Why do you think Lucien took Pierre in?
  17. 17. Pierre realizes that there is something “off” about Alain and follows him. Let’s talk about this chapter.
  18. 18. Lucien’s attitude about helping Jewish people has an abrupt change, let’s talk about this
  19. 19. Lucien is approached by the Resistance. What is/was your opinion of France’s Resistance?
  20. 20. “The Resistance does its best under extremely difficult conditions.  But we must fight back.  To live defeated is to die every day”.  Do you agree, or do you think it is better to choose your battles?  Which side do you believe you would end up in, Resistance or Collaborator?
  21. 21. What did you think of Lucien helping the Resistance to sacrifice his factory?
  22. 22. Let’s talk about the ending.
  23. 23. “When all this Madness if over, I hope we meet again,” said Lucien to Herzog. Do you think they will?  If so, what do you think would happen if they did meet after the war?
  24. 24. Did you have a favorite character?
  25. 25. Do you think history could repeat itself in today’s world?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

New York Journal of Books The Paris Architect: A Novel
Reading Group Guides Guide to The Paris Architect
Charles Belfoure’s Official Website
Lit Lovers Guide to The Paris Architect

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Winter Reading: If You Are a Fan of Outlander

Our Winter Reading Program runs the month of February, and we want to help you Find Your Story. Throughout the month, both in the library and on our blog, we’ll be highlighting some of the various reader fandoms.

If your fandom is Outlander, check out the following books to see if they match your interest in the popular series.

The Outcasts of Time book coverThe Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer

With the country in the grip of the Black Death, brothers John and William fear that they will shortly die and suffer in the afterlife. But as the end draws near, they are given an unexpected choice: either to go home and spend their last six days in their familiar world, or to search for salvation across the forthcoming centuries – living each one of their remaining days ninety-nine years after the last.

Themes:Time Slip, Historical Fiction

 

 

Outlander Cookbook book coverOutlander Kitchen by Theresa Carle-Sanders

Featuring more than one hundred recipes, “Outlander Kitchen” retells Claire and Jamie’s incredible story through the flavors of the Scottish Highlands, the French Revolution, and beyond. Following the high standards for prodigious research and boundless creativity set by Diana Gabaldon herself, Carle-Sanders draws on the events and characters of the novels to deliver inventive dishes that highlight local ingredients and traditional cooking techniques.

Themes: Cookbook

 

The Midnight Witch book coverThe Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston

When the sixth Duke of Radnor dies, his hapless son, Freddie, takes on his title, but it is his daughter, Lilith, who inherits his role as Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven. Raised as a witch, instructed in the art of necromancy, Lilith faces a daunting future, for the coven is threatened by a powerful group of sorcerers, the Sentinels. Nicholas Stricklend, a powerful force in the British government, is the Sentinel charged with wresting the Elixir from Lilith, and he cares not who he must crush in order to succeed. As a society beauty, engaged to another titled witch, and with a grieving mother and an unstable brother to look after, Lilith struggles to maintain her two very different existences.

Themes: Dramatic, Romantic, Magic, Witches

 

Into the WildernessInto the Wilderness book cover by Sara Donati

A judge’s daughter elopes with a white adventurer in Colonial America. Elizabeth arrived from England to marry a doctor, but is smitten by Nathaniel, a man raised by the Mohawks. The doctor, however, refuses to give her up and pursues them.

Themes: Dramatic, Moving, Romantic

 

 

The House on the Strand book ocverThe House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier

When Dick samples Magnus’s potion, he finds himself doing the impossible: traveling through time while staying in place, thrown all the way back into Medieval Cornwall. The concoction wear off after several hours, but its effects are intoxicating and Dick cannot resist his newfound powers. As his journeys increase, Dick begins to resent the days he must spend in the modern world, longing ever more fervently to get back into his world of centuries before, and the home of the beautiful Lady Isolda…

Themes: Time Travel, Fixing History, Romance, Suspense

Andrea’s Pick: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Andrea Staff Pick photoThe Civil War… with zombies? Dread Nation by Justina Ireland combines fantasy storytelling and the dark history of racial oppression in the U.S. in this genre-blending YA novel that’s a little bit historical fiction, a little bit steampunk, and only sort of about zombies.

When the dead walked at Gettysburg, all thoughts of rebuilding the nation fell away. A new law declared that young people of color must attend combat school to learn how to defeat the dead. Fresh from combat school, Jane finds herself in the clutches of powerful enemies who see her as less than human. In the war against the dead, she never expected that the living might turn out to be her biggest danger.

Have you taken up this summer’s challenge of Reading Takes You Everywhere? Enjoy this book for either of the following categories:

Q. Read a book of fantasy or magical realism.
Y. Read a book from the Young Adult collections.

Kelda’s Pick: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Kelda Staff Pick photoI appreciated the audiobook Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter because it served as a jumping off point for further reading, viewing, and listening. I became interested in reading books about the Golden Age of Hollywood, viewing movies of that era, particularly Cleopatra, and listening to more books read by the actor Edoardo Ballerini.

Book Discussion Questions: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Title:  News of the World
Author:  Paulette Jiles
Page Count: 213 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Tone:  Compelling, Lyrical, Character-driven

Summary:
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an elderly widower and itinerant news reader, is offered fifty dollars to bring an orphan girl, who was kidnapped and raised by Kiowa raiders, from Wichita Falls back to her family in San Antonio.

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. What might the experience of coming to hear a news reader be like? Did the author’s choice of having a news-reading scene be our first moments of the book help you move into the world of the story?

2. What was your initial impression of Captain Kidd? What details contributed to that impression?

3. Several commentaries offer the observation that News of the World is deceptively simple. What might this mean? Is it a compliment, or is it a neutral observation? Do you agree?

4. Which elements of a traditional Western are evident in News of the World?

5. What do we learn of Kidd’s youth? How does this inform the story? Were you glad to know more about his past?

6. From the first scene in which Johanna is introduced, we are treated to brief moments of her perceptions. How do these glimpses enhance the story? What do we learn?

7. How would you characterize Johanna’s behavior? Is it believable?

8. In what ways does Kidd try to help Johanna become ready for re-assimilation into her new life?

9. Conversely, what does Johanna teach Kidd?

10. Jiles did a great deal of research on captives. Does it show? Does her work make this a better story in any way, or would it not have been much different to either make it up or leave in the background?

11. From what we learn around the edges and from Johanna’s thoughts, would you say the Kiowa are depicted sympathetically?

12. What were some of the memorable encounters along the journey?

13. Describe the reunion between Johanna and her people. How does the Captain try to help? How is he treated?

14. After he left her with family, was the Captain right to intervene?

15. What was your reaction to the lives they created for themselves? Were you surprised? Satisfied?

16. Was John Calley a good man? How would you describe him? What were the three circumstances in which they encountered him?

17. What purpose did the talk Captain and Johanna have on her wedding day serve?

18. Several of the characters, including Britt Johnson and Captain Kidd, are based on true historical figures. Is this surprising? Does this change your perception of them at all?

19. Would you describe this as a realistic story?

20. Where in the novel does the title appear? Does it have significance beyond the literal?

21. What is the primary draw for you about this story: the setting, the bond of characters, the journey?

22. Would you describe this as a quiet novel? Why or why not?

23. What will you take away with you from this novel? What will you remember?

24. What is the significance of the line, “The bones of the Kiowa warriors did not lie in the earth but in the stories of their lives, told and retold – their bravery and daring, the death of Britt Johnson and his men, and Cicada, the little girl taken from the by the Indian Agent, Three Spotted’s little blue-eyed girl”?

25. Jiles asserts that, “using quote marks is like surrounding human speech with barbed wire.” Was the omission of quotation marks distracting or confusing?

26. Does it surprise you to learn Jiles is also a poet? Why or why not?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Paulette Jiles Rides the Dangerous Trails of 1870s Texas” via The Sacramento Bee
Can a 10-year-old Girl Ever Recover from Years in Captivity?” via The Washington Post
interview with The Dallas News: “Paulette Jiles Explains the Apocalyptic Influence on Her Acclaimed Texas Frontier Novel
National Book Award Finalist content, including author reading, interview, and judges’ citation
New York Times book review
Paulette Jiles official author website
LitLovers discussion guide

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