Book Review: The Watchmaker of Dachau by Carly Schabowski

About the Book:

The Watchmaker of Dachau

An unforgettable novel of human kindness, inspired by an incredible true story.

Snow falls and a woman prepares for a funeral she has long expected, yet hoped would never come. As she pats her hair and straightens her skirt, she tells herself this isn’t the first time she’s lost someone. Lifting a delicate, battered wristwatch from a little box on her dresser, she presses it to her cheek. Suddenly, she’s lost in memory…

January 1945. Dachau, Germany. As the train rattles through the bright, snowy Bavarian countryside, the still beauty outside the window hides the terrible scenes inside the train, where men and women are packed together, cold and terrified. Jewish watchmaker Isaac Schüller can’t understand how he came to be here, and is certain he won’t be leaving alive.

When the prisoners arrive at Dachau concentration camp, Isaac is unexpectedly pulled from the crowd and installed in the nearby household of Senior Officer Becher and his young, pretty, spoiled wife. With his talent for watchmaking, Isaac can be of use to Becher, but he knows his life is only worth something here as long as Becher needs his skills.

Anna Reznick waits table and washes linens for the Bechers, who dine and socialise and carry on as if they don’t constantly have death all around them. When she meets Isaac she knows she’s found a true friend, and maybe more. But Dachau is a dangerous place where you can never take love for granted, and when Isaac discovers a heartbreaking secret hidden in the depths of Becher’s workshop, it will put Anna and Issac in terrible danger…

 

My Thoughts:

The Watchmaker of Dachau is another WWII based novel that adds to my love for Historical Fiction. I requested for a copy of this book from NetGalley and I am ever grateful to the publisher and author for getting approved to read it!

The story is told from different points of view but caries on from where the previous chapter leaves off. Initially, we are introduced to Isaac, a Jewish watchmaker who has been taken to the concentration camp at Dachau. Having arrived without any belongings, he immediately surprises the Officers who are checking the prisoners. The only things he has with him are his tiny tools for fixing and making watches. This creates an interest in him that leads to his working for Senior Officer Becher at his house a little way off from the camp. Through this, we meet Anna, who is brought from the camp everyday to work at the house as a maid. Thirdly, we meet the Becher’s ever curious eleven year old son who does not understand why he was pulled away from school to come home and live in a confined manner.

With the ever growing horrors of the camp, Isaac and Anna try to find ways to cling to hope. The author focuses on the different perspectives to give us glimpses into how these characters think and react to their situations and surroundings. We observe the stark contrast between life in the camp and then at Officer Becher’s house just outside. Isaac forms a few bonds with people around him but also with Anna and Friedrich. Anna on the other hand meets Nina, her constant companion and support at the camp. Having to constantly fix things, Isaac works diligently in the shed in the garden, trying to keep his head down and not be thrown out. Through this, we follow him as he discovers letters from someone detailing their life before and during their time in the concentration camp. This is a story of love for another, love for family and of hope.

The beauty of this story lies in the hope of being saved and finding love in the midst of all the sadness and death. The story is heart wrenching and at times difficult to read, but it is definitely worth the read. The bonds formed and those which endure are amazing and borne out of shared experiences. These kinds of bonds do not break easily and in the end, the reader will be satisfied with the story. All the smaller story lines in the book come together in the end like a thread woven through fabric forming a tapestry of horrors lived and left behind. This is indeed a well-written tear-jerker of a book based on a true story that must be known to all! I highly recommend this read!