What's not to like about a story that involves people trying to outwit the Nazis? This is a great story, a really good read written by an architect about an architect living in Paris in 1942. Paris is occupied by the Nazis, everyone is soley concerned with staying alive and out of the way of the occupiers. Jews are being hunted and rounded up and sent away. Everyone is suspicious of everyone else, people are on rations and hungry, life is not easy, collaborators are everywhere, the Germans are quite random in their use of violence, and the search for Jews, espcially rich ones, is relentless.
Lucien Bernard is a very talented architect. A patriot to the core, he hates the Nazis, but also knows he needs to stay out of their way. He has little time or energy for the Jews of the city, but when he is approached by a wealthy industrialist to design very secret hiding places for Jews on the run in return for being able to design buildings for the Germans, and thus earn money and prestige, he has to swallow all his misgivings. His secret hiding places are a success, and against his will he finds himself doing more such work. Over the course of the story, his conscience, his survival instinct and his very humanism are constantly fighting against each other.
Being an architect himself, the author has peppered the story with all sorts of interesting architectural and design detail. One finds a new appreciation for buildings as works of art. So iit is a book that informs as well as entertains. I wouldn't say he is the best writer in the world, and that his talents perhaps lie more with a drawing pencil rather than a writing one, but this is a terrific story. Well told, very real characters, and like many books that have been inspired by WWII, make us question how we would behave in a similar set of circumstances.