The Bookseller of Dachau (ARC Review)

Book Title: The Bookseller of Dachau
Author: Shari J. Ryan
Release Date: October 29th, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, World War II
My rating: 3.75/5 Stars


Germany, 1939: The roof is the only place no one can hear us. All the lights in the village blur into the darkness, and the flame on my candle flickers, leaving us with just the glow of the stars. “We can’t let them take everything from you,” I say. “Hiding is the only option.”

When Matilda’s childhood sweetheart Hans is in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to hide him in her attic. Protecting him from her parents and the soldiers downstairs, she smuggles him food and communicates in whispers. For months, they exist by candlelight. But how long can they survive?

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.

Grace visits her legacy––a bookshop on a cobbled lane filled with lost memories. She combs through faded photographs and handwritten letters, unearthing the story of a young woman who devoted her life to returning the keepsakes of Dachau prisoners to their families. A woman who was torn from her one true love––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 Auschwitz, Orphan Train and Kristin Hannah will be blown away by this breathtakingly gripping page-turner.

My Review:

The Bookseller of Dachau is a beautiful yet heartbreaking story that will have readers switching between hope and despair from page to page. However, I have rather mixed feelings about this one. I’m usually not a fan of dual timelines, and that was still the case for this one. Matilda’s storyline was so much stronger than Grace’s in my opinion. Every time I turned the page and found out it was one of Grace’s chapters, I immediately started skimming so that I could get back to Matilda’s. 

The story of Matilda and Hans was one that was so heartbreaking and so well done. I can’t say that I enjoyed it because it was definitely hard to read at times, especially when Hans was taken, but it was also told so well, and I was engaged to the point that I just kept turning and turning the pages. There was one evening when I was reading, and I had to get up earlier the next morning, but I’d decided to read one more chapter, and boy was that a mistake. The next thing I knew, it was 2 AM, because I simply had to know what happened to Hans.

While Matilda’s storyline was filled with deep emotions and meaningful conversations, Grace’s storyline fell flat in comparison. All of the dialogue felt stilted and unnatural, and the romance was unbelievable and undeveloped. I almost wish that this had been told purely from Matilda and Hans’s points of views rather than switching back and forth from the 1940s to 2018. I understand why it was told this way, and I do think it added another layer of emotional depth, at least when we got to the end of Matilda’s story. I just wish that Grace’s point of view had been developed a little more so that I could feel as attached to her as I did Matilda, because I loved reading about her and Hans. 

Still, I really liked Matilda’s storyline, and even with my mixed feelings, I’m so glad I read this one. It was a captivating, heartbreaking story about the horrific experiences lived during World War II, and the strength and resilience it took to defy the impossible odds.

Have you read the Bookseller of Dachau? If so, what did you think? Did your opinions differ from mine in any way? I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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