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The Paris Architect: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 383 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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From the Publisher
A Conversation with Charles Belfoure
How did you first become interested in writing?
When I went back to Columbia University, I had to write a thesis for my master’s degree. I found that I really enjoyed doing the research and writing the thesis. I’d never written a word before that. So I decided that I’d like to write a book. I co-authored The Baltimore Rowhouse then went on to write three more books on architectural history on my own. I also became a freelance writer for the Baltimore Sun and New York Times, which I didn’t enjoy as much as writing the books.
Why did you start writing fiction?
Once I had some non-fiction experience under my belt, I thought I’d try fiction. John Grisham was my inspiration: a real-life attorney who wrote crime novels based on the legal world. I was a real-life architect who could write fiction based on architecture. And I always admired writers who had dual careers, such as Wallace Stevens who was a lawyer, Somerset Maugham and William Carlos Williams who were doctors.
Who are your favorite fiction writers?
There’s just one, Anne Tyler. She’s superb at observing human behavior and emotions. And her novels are based in Baltimore, my hometown, so I enjoy identifying the Baltimore references and geography in her books.
What was your inspiration for The Paris Architect?
For The Paris Architect, I transposed a real life historical event to a different time. During the reign of Elizabeth I, Catholicism was repressed, and the saying of mass was outlawed. But priests throughout England refused to obey and continued to worship in secret in manor houses. As a precaution, carpenters designed and constructed 'priest holes' for them to hide in if the house was discovered. (If caught, the priests as well as the people who hid them would be tortured and executed.) When the Queen’s soldiers raided a suspected house, they would look for days and never find the priests who were hiding under their noses.
Using Occupied Paris during World War II as my setting, I turned the Elizabethan age carpenter into a gentile architect who designs temporary hiding places for Jews escaping the Nazis.
The other inspiration would be that of my mother’s experience during World War II. After Germany defeated Poland in 1939, many Poles were forced into labor camps to work produce war material for the Germans. My mother wasn’t Jewish but she and hundreds of thousands of gentile Poles had to work in factories under horrific conditions, functioning basically as slaves. She was working in a factory that made chewing tobacco for German soldiers. One day, a German supervisor discovered she could speak German and French and found her a job as a translator at the factory in Nordhausen, Germany where the V-2 rockets were being produced. She worked as a housekeeper and translator for the contractor who constructed tunnels inside the Hartz Mountains, where the rockets were assembled. She lived with the contractor’s family in relative comfort while a few hundred meters away thousands died building rockets. The German supervisor’s one act of kindness saved her. People can’t survive terrible times without help from others. So I wanted to include those kinds of behavior in the book.
What research did you do before writing the book?
I studied as much as I could about life in Paris during World War II. The best reference was Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay “Paris Under the Occupation.”
What’s the process you use in writing a book?
I do it the way a building is constructed. First, I build the foundation and a structural skeleton, which is the basic plot structure of the novel. Then in layers I flesh out the structure, adding details that give it description and depth. The last layer would be tiny details like the design of a handrail or the door handle on the front doorway in a building.
Who were your favorite characters in the book?
Aside from Lucien, the architect, it would be Father Jacques. It's a little known fact that a lot of Catholic priests in France were arrested and deported for helping Jews, especially children. I wanted to portray a really brave person committed to helping his fellow man. The scene with Father Jacques being interrogated by the Gestapo colonel is probably my favorite. He isn't scared or intimidated by the Gestapo in the least and stands up to them. He knows he's done the right thing by helping the children and isn't afraid to die for it.
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Top customer reviews
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Most of all, it reads like Alan Furst's best work -- atmospheric, taut and unpredictable, all the while creating a world of its own.
There were some difficult parts of the story, as would be expected from this time & from the types of people involved in this horrible acts. But throughout the book, we saw caring people who went to great & risky lengths to help save people, no matter who they were.
Lucian's character grew on me & grew all through the book. He was rather self centered & focused on his on life & survival but as the story progressed we saw the "real" person within Lucien.
Very good book, will look for more by this author!