Title: The Watchmaker of Dachau
Author: Carly Schabowski
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication date: 20th January 2021
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
“‘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…“
In The Watchmaker of Dachau, we meet several characters who are captured in Dachau concentration camp and other characters forced to work in one of the commander’s homes. These mix of characters form the base of a poignant and somber story which is fascinating from the start and is based on a real life story in an attempt to bring more awareness to some of the tragedies during WWII.
Isaac is taken in by Becher, one of the commanders, as soon as he is brought to Dachau concentration camp once the guards discover that he fixes objects. Some of the events that occurred on his way to the camp as well as once he arrived were tragic and I found some parts difficult to read. However, the friendship he forms with Anna, one of Becher’s housekeepers, brings an air of hope and positivity when they find a series of mysterious letters. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this friendship develop despite the bleak contrast of their surroundings.
The most curious character is most certainly Friedrich, Becher’s young son who doesn’t understand much including why his family have hired staff or the events happening at the Dachau camp. Although his character is originally portrayed as juvenile and naive, this brings about an element of positivity as he tries to form a connection with both Isaac and Anna in various ways despite often being scolded with his parents whenever they found out. This bond transforms into something even more beautiful in the epilogue which is ultimately a celebration of life and a bittersweet way to connect these characters and highlight their differences and similarities.
The writing in The Watchmaker of Dachau flows beautifully and the short chapters kept me invested in the storyline until the very end. I would have preferred if the book was more lengthy and descriptive as there were certain parts which skimmed years. However, the connection which this characters formed was a beautiful symbol for the struggles many faced during the war and the story a necessary one to be told.
The Watchmaker of Dachau is out to buy today!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.