I’ve been enjoying a run of war-based novels in the last few weeks. First there was The Dressmaker of Paris, by Georgia Kauffmann, which was reviewed last month. Then for my book group I read All the Light We Cannot See, By Anthony Doerr and finally, our first ‘The library Door’ review for March is, While Paris Slept, by Ruth Druart published by Headline ( on the 4th March.

The Second World War, an era now beginning to fade from living memory, is one which fascinates us. In recent reviews I have pondered whether I would, as I like to believe, be brave enough to do the right thing or would I be one of the ‘sheeple’ as current popular slang describes them, who keep their head down and follow the crowd? When visiting Berlin pre lockdown, I was visiting one of the many museums. I was interested by a photograph of a huge crowd at a Nazi rally. One man was circled. He was the only individual in that huge mass of people who was refusing to do the salute to Hitler. The notes on the picture commented on his bravery ad possible foolhardiness. Over the passing years we’ve heard of individuals who at great personal risk, hid, smuggled or otherwise protected Jews from the concentration camps. Some stories only came to light many years later and those saved sometimes never got the chance to thank their rescuer. The war left so many displaced, orphaned or lost children, one wonders how many never knew the exact truth of their beginnings.

In While Paris Slept, we follow the wartime and post time experiences of two couples. Jean Luc is a French railway worker, being forced to work for the occupying Germans. Charlotte is a young woman, working as a nurse in a German hospital in Paris. They meet when Jean Luc is taken to hospital after a mishandled attempt at sabotage. They feel like they should be doing more to resist the Germans and discuss joining the French Resistance. Sarah and David are a Jewish couple who are caught hiding from the Germans with their new-born child. Sarah is being loaded onto a train at the station where Jean Luc is working. During a moment of chaos she hands over her son to this stranger. The story then follows both couples survival of the war. The narrative moves from America in the fifties back to 1944 as events reveal themselves. Their destinies are entangled. Their choices will affect the future in ways they can’t imagine.

At first this novel begins like its going to be a romance. Maybe a little bit of adventure and wartime drama thrown in. Then it moves onto the still, sadly, familiar territory of evasion and survival and sacrifice during the war in relation to the persecution of the Jewish people. However, here we have a twist. The ground is being laid for a Kramer versus Kramer type battle over a child. Its beautifully done. We have learned to like and admire all four adult characters. It would be so easy if any of them were less likeable, less worthy, less deserving. Its interesting to see how the issues faced are handled by 1950’s ‘experts’ and to imagine how it would hopefully be managed more sensitively now.

Ruth Druart

The story is told from the point of view of each character and moves forward and back in time. Each chapter helpfully has the name of the character we are hearing from at the start. I liked having a copy of the printed book. On kindle or on audio, I might have found it a little confusing. However, each character is beautifully written, the different ‘voices’ easily apparent. The child is written so as you can hear the words being thought or spoken in that childish way. The quietness and sadness of Sarah shines through as does the impetuousness and lively character of Charlotte.

This is English born, French author Ruth Druart’s (@ruthdruart) first novel. Ruth grew up on the Isle of Wight and left when she was eighteen to study philosophy at Leicester. In 1993 she moved to Paris to pursue her career in teaching, where she met her French husband and raised three sons, she still lives there today. While working she wrote numerous drafts of While Paris Slept, on her daily commute. She decided to take a sabbatical over a year ago to follow her dream of becoming a full time writer, while also running her writing group.

This is a thought provoking read. It took me a little while to get hooked but I stayed up beyond my bedtime the last two nights, as I just had to know what happened in the end. Not many books without a strong balance of good versus bad characters can make you that invested. This may be a crowded market, but this book should rise above. It’s a great tale of the motherhood. In protecting our children should we always hold tightly onto them or should we be willing to let them go?

This is highly recommended as a Mothering Sunday present for the wonderful woman in your life. So order a copy online or download it soon.

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.



The Paris Archtct CvrIt may be one of most romantic cities in the world, but with what has been visited upon the French capital in the past twelve months, you’d think I’d be turned off going there. On the contrary, this makes me more determined than ever to fan the flames of love in its various arrondissements, walking hand in hand along the banks of the Seine or sittiing outside it’s cafe’s and boulangeries drinking coffee and nibbling fresh flaky croissants while admiring the architecture. Thus bringing us on to this month’s book – it’s The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure.

As Lucien Bernard the Architect of the title, rounds a corner of a street in Paris he almost bumps into a man running in the opposite direction. In the split second that it takes for the man to pass, Lucien notices that he is wearing the same cologne as himself. He hears a gun shot, turning he sees the man is lying dead on the pavement behind him, blood pouring from his head. He is a Jew.

This opening scene from “The Paris Architect” reflects the tone of the book.  Set in 1940’s Nazi-occupied Paris, the book explores the intersection of normal, everyday life with the terror of living-on-the-edge, where being in the wrong place at the wrong time could mean death, torture or deportation to a prison camp.

The book’s central character, Lucien, is a handsome young architect battling with the deprivations of occupied Paris – little work, scarcity of food, rationing. Self-centered and egotistical, as the story begins Lucien is frustrated that the war has deprived him of the opportunity to display his modernist architectural talents and, in the process, becoming rich and renowned, achieving the social status and acclaim that he, by his own lights, truly deserves.

On the morning of the shooting, Lucien is heading for a fateful meeting with a rich industrialist, Auguste Manet. He is expecting a commission to design an armaments factory for the German military. Manet’s proposition is, however, entirely different. He wants Lucien to incorporate a secret hiding place in an apartment that is to be used to accommodate a Jewish friend until he can be moved to safety.  Lucien’s horror at being asked to do such a dangerous task is only slightly assuaged by the very large sum of money that Manet offers. Even the indication that this would lead to the expected factory commission does little to persuade Lucien to take on such a suicidal job. The hook that reels him in is the architectural challenge. He envisages an elegant solution, an ingenious hiding place that no Gestapo search party would find…

So begins Lucien’s transformation. As his fascination for devising architectural solutions

Priest hide

Inspiration – A Priest Hole

draws him into a life-threatening web of secrecy and intrigue, Lucien’s arrogant self-confidence is challenged by tragedy and by exposure to the self-sacrifice and bravery of others. A very unlikely hero emerges.


Lucien is soon leading a double life – surreptitiously visiting apartments to design hiding places while also socialising with German officers to progress his factory proposals. As his life becomes more and more dangerously complicated – he becomes friends with a Wehrmacht officer, the Paris Resistance targets him as a collaborator, his mistress takes a Gestapo lover, he takes in an orphaned Jewish boy  – the tension and terror heightens.

And it isn’t only Lucien’s life that generates nail-biting tension. Balfoure’s description of the coldly casual brutality of Nazi killing of civilians is truly shocking, bringing home what it must be like to live under a reign of terror.

It also raises uncomfortable questions for the reader. What would we do if we were faced with a similar situation? Would we risk our life and those of our family to protect others from atrocity? Or would we adopt Lucien’s wife approach that “in wartime, Christian brotherhood takes a back seat to saving one’s own skin.”

Balfoure’s description of the sadism of the Gestapo and the grotesque consequences for those found helping Jews – and even those who are only living in the same apartment block – brings into sharp focus why it was that ordinary people in Germany and occupied Europe looked the other way and ‘allowed’ unconscionable atrocities to be carried out all around them. I, unfortunately, have to admit that I would do the same.


Charles Belfoure

An architect by profession, this is Balfoure’s first book of two works of fiction, published in 2013, the other is House of Thieves published last year ( The idea for Lucien’s ‘hook’ is based on the actual incorporation of secret hiding places for persecuted priests in houses of Catholic sympathizers during the reign of Elizabeth 1st.    Balfoure’s own love of architectural problem-solving is evident throughout. Although spatially challenged, even I found his descriptions of the design of hiding places compellingly fascinating, making Lucien’s risk taking and subsequent transformation wholly believable.

Written with a true story-teller’s flair, the narrative unfolds at a fast, page-turning pace – until close to the end, which is disappointingly clichéd (written with a film deal in mind?).  Despite this one reservation, it’s a really good thought-provoking read.


We’d like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers and followers on the various social media a very happy New Year. Thanks for stopping by and for spreading the word. We hope you enjoy the book reviews that we’ve have left  beyond The Library Door  and will continue to leave over 2016. Adrian