This very suspenseful novel celebrates the many gentiles who sacrificed their security and sometimes their lives in order to hide Jews during the second World War. This fictitious gentile, an architect named Lucien, was initially engaged by a man named Manet, to design unusual hiding places for Jews in various residences in and around Paris. Manet outwardly managed construction projects for the Germans during their occupation of France, but simultaneously and secretly worked tirelessly to save innocent Jews from the Germans. Lucien was initially enticed mainly by the glory and the money of the large German construction projects and resented having to go along with the smaller although still strategically challenging projects for the Jews. However, as the story unfolds, this changes and his anger with the Germans mounts and he becomes emboldened by what he is able to accomplish.
While the writing in this book is not flowery or beautiful in any way, the story is told with frank boldness. The crudeness of the writing I believe is trying to match the crudeness of the characters and while it lessens the quality of the book it does get a point across. That said, there are a lot of unexpected turns to the story and suspense does gradually build and build to the point that I was truly unable to put the book down.
I think there is a lot of historical significance to this book as there are not too many stories that involve the French perspective on WWII. In light of the current surge in anti-semitism in France, this is a timely novel.