The book is set in Bratislava, Slovakia, at the start of the rise to power of Hitler and his Third Reich, in Germany. The Weissenteiners are a typical hard-working, immigrant family in Slovakia, where they operate a small home-based weaving enterprise. Although they are Jewish, they are not practicing and having long ago escaped the persecution and Anti-Semitism in their Ukrainian homeland, they are determined to keep their heads down and not stand out as anything other than what they are - hard-working members of the Bratislavan community.
Hitler's reign of terror combined with decisions and happenings within all of Eastern Europe during World War II lead them to a desperate life of survival that, like so many others at that time, will tear their family apart.
The patriarch Jonah and his two daughters Greta and Wilma will meet many fascinating characters on their long journey to freedom. For me, this is one of the standouts of the book; the way Fischer is able to seamlessly expose his characters to almost all of the prevailing opinions and people of the time; from rabid Nazis, to terrified Jews, homosexuals, to Germans living in non-German territories, to collaborators and many more political flavours. For me, this was the highlight of the book. He showed beautifully how happenstance, security and safety was in pre-World War II Europe, during the War itself, and then in post-World War II Europe, as the liberators sought desperately to sort out the problem of millions of displaced people.
On their long journey, we truly got to fall in love with the characters and that is always the sign of a good author. I genuinely felt sad at the senseless deaths and the meaningless violence. I think Fischer has captured well the desolation and hopelessness of the time, plus the indomitable spirit of many of the survivors.
As a first work, this book gives a great indication of where Fischer's works would go in the future. This is one of the very best and most talented "indie" authors in the marketplace today. I am a big fan and I would recommend this to all readers who love books strong on relationships, but also well researched historically and brimming with action and adventure. Good job Mr Fischer.