The Paris Architect is set in the City of Lights during the bleak World War II period when Paris becomes the City of Darkness. Nazi-occupied France forces Parisians to choose allegiance for the sole purpose of survival. Lucien is an egotistical architect and not a very likeable one at that. When we first meet him at the beginning of Charles Belfoure’s debut novel, Lucien is fairly indifferent towards the war and more interested in himself. He has a vain self-interest in securing his next architectural contract and seems more occupied with attempting to creating a magnificent structure that will secure his place in history and make his mark on Paris than he does with the hopeless plight of the Jews. Lucien concentrates on achieving grander plans. He aspires to create a building that will outlast the war and stand as a monument to his talent in the years to come.
Whilst trying to maintain his ambivalent arrogance, Lucien is approached by a wealthy Industrialist and asked to design hiding places for Jews. His task is to hide a Jew in plain sight in a retrospectively installed cavity, nook or crevice in order to escape torture and death at the hands of the Gestapo. The only reasons that Lucien is tempted by this request is that he is promised that it will lead on to a lucrative contract designing buildings for the Germans and also he is excited about the prospect of out-witting the Gestapo with his self-perceived brilliance. One act of deception leads to another and before Lucien realises it, he is being criticised as a French-traitor and a collaborator for working with the Germans, the Resistance are targeting and threatening him, and simultaneously he brazenly and deceptively protecting Jews. The issues of sacrifice and redemption drive the plot of this page-turning novel. My only criticism of this book is the use of modern language that the author used. I found this detracted slightly from my reading experience but overall I still REALLY enjoyed this book.