Friday, September 27, 2013

Book review: The Paris Architect, by Charles Belfoure

Belfoure’s suspenseful and commercially oriented debut, set in 1942 Paris, follows a self-centered, ambitious man as he develops a moral conscience.

When a rich businessman persuades architect Lucien Bernard to adapt an apartment to create a hiding place for a wealthy Jew, he takes it as a challenge. Despite the dangers, Lucien likes fooling the occupying Germans, the money is excellent, and it comes with a lucrative opportunity to design a new factory for the Reich.

Tensions rise as he gets drawn deeply into the plans of both the occupiers and the Resistance. After one careless mistake results in tragedy, however, he begins reevaluating his life.

The plot doesn’t skimp on evoking the constant fear the Parisians face or the brutality the Jews encounter. Food is scarce, black market goods are costly, and neighbors rat one another out to save their own necks.

With his unadorned, zippy style and broad-brush characters, Belfoure writes like an up-and-coming Ken Follett but with more sex and violence and stronger language. There’s plenty of detail to interest architecture buffs, too.

The Paris Architect is out on October 8th from Sourcebooks Landmark (hb, $25.99, 384pp).  This review first appeared in Booklist's July issue.

Other things of note:

- The author is an architect specializing in historic preservation, so he knows whereof he speaks when he includes all the details on building design and construction in the book.  It's all smoothly incorporated within the story and not overdone.

- I had a feeling when I made the Ken Follett comparison that I'd be seeing that bit quoted elsewhere later on... and I was rightThe Paris Architect isn't a doorstopping epic like Follett's newest books, but Belfoure's page-turning style is very similar (though note the added info above; there are some violent scenes, for example, that squeamish readers may want to skim).

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:19 PM

    I totally agree with you about the "unadorned" and the "broad-brush" . . . . and the wealth of architectural detail.

    Sarah OL