3.0 out of 5 stars - Would you risk your life for a stranger?
In this novel, set in Paris during the 1942 Nazi occupation of the "city of light", architect Lucien Bernard is faced with that very question. He is a gentile in a world turned upside down as Jews and others who displease the Reich are rounded up, tortured, and killed for almost any perceived transgression against the German war machine. Lucien loves designing modern buildings, his wine, and his mistress -- he has no interest in becoming a hero or a savior -- he wants to stay as far out of the notice of the Gestapo as possible. Unfortunately, the occupation has taken a toll on his finances and personal life. He needs work, so when a wealthy industrialist offers him a chance to design factories for the Germans, he decides to take the risk because he so wants to prove himself a visionary architect and leave a legacy. He gets more than he bargained for, however, when Manet asks him if he will try to design a hiding place inside an apartment for a friend of his. Like a "priest hole" of old, the compartment has to be concealed despite the eventuality of the house being completely ransacked and the obvious places discovered. The challenge intrigues Lucien, because he knows he has the skill and talent and will enjoy tricking the hated Gestapo. Lucien understands that human life has little value in this occupied city he loves, and he really has no empathy for the Jews in particular, but he decides to accept and designs his first hidden compartment. Though he insisted he would do only one, he finds himself drawn in by the the thrill of pitting his architectural acumen against the demonic savagery of the Gestapo and ultimately also realizes that this little rebellion and these few "saves" have changed him and his view of life.
I recommend this to anyone who read and liked Sarah's Key or other novels set mainly in Paris during World War II. The unique perspective of the writer, an architect himself, will have you looking at every building, apartment, house, etc., in a totally new light -- seeing details and structures as never before. The storyline is well known, but these unique characters and relationships during this horrible time in Paris come alive on the pages and make the reader root for Lucien's transformation from aloof and afraid to involved and brave.
Thank you to NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Landmark for the ebook to review.