The Draughtsman by Robert Lautner
Publisher: HarperCollins (February 9, 2017)
Print Length: 496 pages
Audiobook Length: 12 hrs and 43 mins
Narrator: Peter Noble
1944, Germany. Ernst Beck’s new job marks an end to months of unemployment. Working for Erfurt’s most prestigious engineering firm, Topf & Sons, means he can finally make a contribution to the war effort, provide for his beautiful wife, Etta, and make his parents proud. But there is a price.
Ernst is assigned to the firm’s smallest team – the Special Ovens Department. Reporting directly to Berlin his role is to annotate plans for new crematoria that are deliberately designed to burn day and night. Their destination: the concentration camps. Topf’s new client: the SS.
As the true nature of his work dawns on him, Ernst has a terrible choice to make: turning a blind eye will keep him and Etta safe, but that’s little comfort if staying silent amounts to collusion in the death of thousands.
The Draughtsman by Robert Lautner is an interesting edition to the WWII historical fiction genre. Usually, when one pick up a book from this category, it tends to focus on the war from the perspective of someone who was on the opposing side of Hitler’s Third Reich. And yet, Lautner chose to focus on ordinary German citizen Ernest Beck, and whether or not he was to make the extraordinary decision to not turn a blind eye when placed in the ‘Special Ovens Department.’
While the plot was one that I hadn’t felt like I had read 100 times previous, I did find myself struggling with the writing. First and foremost, it felt, to me at least, that I was reading a translation. There was a severe lack of punctuation used throughout the text, which made me skim over passage instead of reading them straight through. Also, it was a tad too long for me. Things that should have back the usual, emotional punch fell short due over explanations, or resolutions in passages past.
On the other side, I really did feel for Ernest’s blight. At the beginning of the novel, Ernest is honestly looking forward to his new job, and the ability to provide for himself, and his wife. While Ernest wasn’t designing or producing the oven used in concentration camps, he was copying them for mass distribution, which begged the question of how innocent he truly was. As the novel progresses and the situation continues to get more and more dire, Lautner explores how the war impacted the everyday German citizen, showing the reader that not every decision, including Ernest’s, can be categorized in terms of black or white.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
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And those are my thoughts on The Draughtsman by Robert Lautner. Have any historical fiction recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.