The Bookseller of Dachau by Shari J. Ryan

Published October 29th 2021 by Bookouture

Germany, 1940: “Can’t I say goodbye?” I shout, cupping my hands over my mouth. The Nazis dragging him away stare at me, soldiers with icy glares. No. No, no, no, they can’t make him leave.

In Nazi Germany, innocent people vanish every day, torn mercilessly from their homes and loved ones. When Matilda’schildhood sweetheart Hans is in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to hide him in her attic. Neighbors their whole lives, and desperately in love with one another, she’ll do anything to protect him. For months, they exist by candlelight, smuggling food and communicating in whispers. But, in the end, nothing can stop the soldiers charging in…

America, 2018: Grace opens a mustard-yellow envelope, and her world unravels. She has inherited a bookstore in the small town of Dachau from the grandmother she had no idea existed. Her mom, adopted as a baby, spent her life searching for her biological parents––and died without ever knowing.

Grace visits her legacy––a bookshop on a cobbled lane filled with lost memories. She combs through handwritten letters, unearthing the story of her grandmother Matilda. A woman whose one true love was locked within the barbed wire of Dachau––a woman who never gave up hope…

As Grace pieces together her family’s heartbreaking past, she discovers the long-buried secret of her own identity. But when she learns the truth, will she ever be the same again?

This heart-wrenching yet hopeful tale will restore your faith in humanity, and in the power of love to triumph over evil. Fans of The Tattooist of AuschwitzOrphan Train and Kristin Hannah will be blown away by this breathtakingly gripping page-turner.

4.5 Stars:

Seventeen year old Matilda Ellman lives in Augsburg Germany, in an apartment one floor above her best friend Hans Bauer. The Ellmans and the Bauers are close, until Hitler begins his persecution against the Jewish people. When the Bauers are relocated to a ghetto, Matilda convinces him and his family to let her hide him. Matilda creates a place for Hans to live in the attic of her family’s apartment to hide him. With German soldiers living downstairs, Hans tries not to make any noise. He writes by candle light, Matilda smuggles him food and they fall in love. None of this keeps him safe and he is eventually taken to Dachau prison camp.

In 2018, architect Grace Laurent is living in Boston. Her mother died three years earlier from cancer and she is estranged from her father. She receives a padded envelop from a lawyer in Germany. Her mother arrived in the US on a transport from Europe in the 1940s and was never able to find her family. Before she died, she entered her DNA into a search website and it seems that Grace’s grandmother found it. She is being contacted because her grandmother has died and left her property in Dachau. Grace drops everything and flies to Germany to find out more.

I read a lot of historical fiction about WWII and the Holocaust but The Bookseller of Dachau is a bit different from others I have read. This is the story about ordinary German Citizens and how they reacted to what was happening during this time. Told in a dual timeline, Grace reads diaries and letters (translated into English) to learn about her grandparents. Both of the storylines mesh together perfectly and I enjoyed them both equally. In the 1940s, Mathilda never gives up looking and waiting for Hans. Her hope wavers at times, but keeps her moving forward, especially after her daughter is taken from her. We don’t really read much about the camps, just that it is there and some generalities about what is happening there. This plotline is about survival of the ones left behind when your loved one is imprisoned in a camp or in a Nazi uniform. It shows us about a mother who is ashamed of the decisions her son makes, but she still loves and worries about him. We also see how families were torn apart based on their reactions to Hitler’s plans. It is about hope, love and never giving up. The 2018 storyline shows us why so many people get involved in things like Ancestry or DNA searches. We don’t all have missing parents and grandparents, but finding your roots is important. Grace has no family left since her father is remarried and has a new family. She is a bit lost and never feels like she fits anywhere. When she begins to read Mathilda’s and Hans’ story, she begins to find peace and a place she feels like she belongs. She also begins to find a soulmate. This part of the story is about finding your roots, your family, where you come from and where you fit. I really enjoyed this well-written story, the characters and the themes. I also learned some things about Dachau, a camp that I know little about. I recommend this one to those who enjoy Historical Fiction, especially stories set in WWII. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book upon request. The rating and opinions are my own.

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About the Author: Shari J. Ryan is a USA Today Bestselling Historical Fiction writer. Her desire to write stories revolving Jewish livelihood during World War II stems from being a descendant of two Holocaust survivors. After the passing of Shari’s grandmother, she pursued an active interest in learning more about the inherited stories she yearned to understand better.

Shortly after earning a bachelors degree from Johnson & Wales University, Shari began her career as a graphic artist and freelance writer. She then found her passion for writing books in 2012. In 2016, Shari began writing her first Historical Fiction novel, Last Words, a story about a lifelong journey through the eyes of a Holocaust survivor. With two character related books to follow, Shari quickly found a new passion to share untold World War II stories within a fictional setting. 

Shari is a lifelong New England girl who lives to make people laugh. She is happily married with two wonderful sons and a spunky Australian Shepard, who fits right in with the family. 

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