Like most Gentiles in the Nazi-occupied Paris of Charles Belfoure's debut novel, Lucien Barnard has no great love for Jews. Strapped for cash, however, the architect accepts commissions to design hiding places for Jews in exchange for considerable sums of money and the promise of lucrative building contracts. But when one of his hiding places fails, he is no longer able to keep his emotions separate from his work, and finds himself drawn into a dangerous game of two-timing the Germans: working for them by day, designing spaces against them at night.
Along with the architectural details that reveal Belfoure's own pre-literary architectural career, the historical details of The Paris Architect bring to life the terrible and terrifying atmosphere of the occupied city, from neighbors turning each other in to the Gestapo to the brutal public murders of Jews and their protectors.
The novel's supporting cast is vast and varied, but narrator Mark Bramhall gives each voice enough differentiation to make Lucien stand apart from the crowd of characters. His portrayal of Lucien's emotional experience transforms a despicable, unlikable character into the unlikely protagonist of an adult coming-of-age tale, staring down his own cowardice and greed in the face of human kindness.
The Paris Architect | Charles Belfoure, read by Mark Bramhall | Random House Audio | July 2013 | Unabridged, 11 hours