Mario Escobar’s latest novel The Librarian of Saint-Malo tells the story of a French librarian’s stand against the German occupation as they descend upon the small coastal village of Saint-Malo. While World War II novels are plentiful, the timeline covered as well as the perspectives shown during this particular title were refreshing and set this novel apart.
Jocelyn is determined. Having just married her high school sweetheart Antoine in August 1939, Jocelyn wishes to begin their married life in bliss. But soon after they are married, Antoine is drafted to fight against Germany, leaving Jocelyn behind in the village of Saint-Malo to manage the tiny library there. World War II brings destruction to their doors, while Jocelyn works to bring comfort and encouragement to those residents who can escape to the library to check out books.
Wanting to do more, Jocelyn begins writing secret letters to a famous author who lives in Paris. Having someone smuggle those letters to him is a great risk, but Jocelyn is desperate that her story, as well as that of Saint-Malo, lives on in the face of the war’s destruction. When France falls and Nazis start to occupy Saint-Malo, Jocelyn wants to do more. With the city now a fortress, the devastation only worsens.
Across the country, Nazis begin to destroy libraries. Armed with lists of unsuitable books, Nazis burn books and even steal the priceless and more rare books. Jocelyn refuses to let her library be destroyed, so despite the risk to herself, she manages to hide the books the Nazis seek to destroy. While terror reigns around her, Jocelyn waits for news from Antoine, who is now a prisoner in a German camp.
The more Jocelyn writes, the more readers see that all she wants is to protect people and her beloved books. This novel tells the story of those who were willing to sacrifice anything to save the people they loved, as well as the true history of their lives.
Did you know that the Davenport Public Library offers book clubs that you can join for free? We currently offer four book clubs that you can join: Book to Film, See YA, Short & Sweets, and True Crime Book Club. More information about the book clubs can be found on our website, by calling 563-326-7832, or by stopping by any service desk.
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse is the September book club pick for See YA, our adult book club that reads young adult books.
Girl in the Blue Coat tells the story of a teenage girl fighting to survive in 1943 Amsterdam. Amsterdam in 1943 is now Nazi-occupied with citizens scared as family and friends are either being killed in front of them or are being shipped out of town in transports. Hanneke has found a way to help her family survive by working the black market.
Hired to work at a funeral home, her boss has ‘errands’ for her to run on the side. Hanneke is good at finding whatever people need. With a network of contacts, she hunts down cigarettes, makeup, perfume, lotions, food, etc. While out on a delivery, Hanneke is asked by a repeat customer to find a Jewish girl that the customer had previously been hiding. The girl has seemingly disappeared into thin air.
Beginning the search for the missing girl, Hanneke is drawn into the resistance. Asking questions leads her down a road filled with underground resistance, activities, and secrets. Not sure about wanting to join the resistance, but wanting to find the missing girl, Hanneke has to decide how far she is willing to go in order to save the missing girl and solve the mystery surrounding her disappearance.
Sound interesting? Want to join one of our book clubs or have questions? Stop by any Davenport Public Library location and we can help! If you can’t make it to the book club, read the book anyway and let us know what you thought about it in the comments below.
Some sacrifices are never known. Lives are saved, missions completed because of anonymous acts of courage. The deeds slip into forgotten history, yet the bravery and the actions may have made all the difference.
1946. New York City. Grace Healey is rushing to work, when a car accident snarls traffic and forces her to make a detour through Grand Central Station. There she finds a small, abandoned suitcase wedged under a bench. Inside the suitcase she finds a dozen photos of ordinary young women, each of whom stare into the camera with determination. Grace is intrigued and begins searching for the missing owner and, she hopes, the mystery of the photographs.
Soon Grace is pulled into a story of intrigue and secrecy as she learns about the owner of the suitcase, a woman named Eleanor Trigg who lead a network of women acting as secret agents in Occupied Europe. Their assignments ranged from couriers to radio operators in aid of the resistance in the weeks leading up to D-Day and the invasion of France. Twelve women – the young women in the photographs – never returned, their fate a mystery.
Based on true events, The Lost Girls of Paris crackles with tension. The women are resourceful and brave, but face many obstacles and difficulties. Their contribution to the war effort is mostly forgotten now, but brought vividly to life again here. Author Pam Jenoff focuses on a few key members of the unit, creating a story that is intimate and real. It is an incredible story of friendship, bravery and betrayal and the strength to carry on.
This story of World War II was new to me, but it hasn’t been forgotten. A new non-fiction book about these brave women has just been published: The D-Day Girls: the Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose which you can find at the Davenport Library.
Like all boys growing up in Rome during the 1930’s and 40’s, the author was expected to join Balilla, Mussolini’s Fascist Youth Organization in Italy. An unwilling participant, he counters this activity by becoming a bicycle runner, secretly delivering pamphlets and other materials to members of the Resistance. Later, near the end of the war, after Italy has surrendered to the Allies but is still controlled by a puppet German government, Romagnoli flees Rome to avoid military conscription. Hiding in the remote mountainous countryside, he becomes even more dangerously involved in the Resistance, working with both American and British soldiers.
But The Bicycle Runner, which covers his life from ages 14-25, is much more than a war story. In fact, it reads much more like a coming-of-age novel, full of the usual adolescent angst weaved together with plenty of humorous anecdotes. Examples include his descriptions of fearful confessions to the local priest (which the entire congregation can hear) to his first experiences with love and lust.
The author may be better known for co-hosting the first American television program on Italian cooking, The Romagnoli’s Table, for which he coauthored two companion books. Though he passed away in December of 2008, the love for his native land and culture comes through strikingly clear; the subtitle, A Memoir of Love, Loyalty and the Italian Resistance, is perfectly appropriate.