Thank you to Sarah Hardy for the invitation to read and review The Watchmaker of Dachau published this week by Bookouture. I reviewed The Ringmaster’s Daughter by Carly Schabowski in July 2020 (see review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/07/07/the-ringmasters-daughter-by-carly-schabowski/) and was pleased to be able to read and review her next novel pre-publication too. The book was published in the UK yesterday.
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…
A gorgeously emotional and tear-jerking read set during World War Two. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, We Were the Lucky Ones and The Alice Network.
Although I regularly read historical fiction novels set during the era of World War 2, I have always avoided the stories set in the death camps. However, because I enjoyed Carly’s previous book, I decided to read this one.
As you would expect there is a lot of heartbreak and tragedy in this book. The camp leader, Becher, is using Anna and Isaac as ‘slave labour’ to help run his home more efficiently, which leads to his young son, Friedrich meeting both of them and questioning the Nazi propaganda against the Jewish people.
We discover how Anna and Isaac ended up in Dachau camp, and the stories of their family and friends too. The story is mostly set towards the end of the war, as the Allied troops are heading across mainland Europe, to try to rescue the people who have been imprisoned by the Nazi regime. Isaac and Anna try to help each other, and their roommates to survive the hunger and the punishments.
Carly’s storytelling swept me into the past, on a very emotional journey. Quickly the characters became important and I didn’t want to put my Kindle down. I stayed up late reading this, a sign of a good book. The ending was a mixture of happy and sad.
This is a non spoiler review, so I’m not going to give any of the twists in the tale away. It was sadly all too believable, that something like this could have happened. Isaac and Anna’s story will stay with me for a long time. I’m happy to recommend this book.
Carly Schabowski worked as a journalist in both North Cyprus and Australia before returning to Oxford, where she studied for an MA and then a PhD in creative writing at Oxford Brookes University. Carly now teaches at Oxford Brookes University as an associate lecturer in Creative Writing for first and second-year English literature students.