1944. Physics professor Alfred Mendl is separated from his family and sent to the men’s camp, where all of his belongings are tossed on a roaring fire. His books, his papers, his life’s work. The Nazis have no idea what they have just destroyed. And without that physical record, Alfred is one of only two people in the world with his particular knowledge. Knowledge that could start a war, or end it.
Nathan Blum works behind a desk at an intelligence office in Washington, DC, but he longs to contribute to the war effort in a more meaningful way, and he has a particular skill set the U.S. suddenly needs. Nathan is fluent in German and Polish, he is Semitic looking, and he proved his scrappiness at a young age when he escaped from the Polish ghetto. Now, the government wants him to take on the most dangerous assignment of his life: Nathan must sneak into Auschwitz, on a mission to find and escape with one man.
The One Man, a historical thriller from New York Times bestseller Andrew Gross, is a deeply affecting, unputdownable series of twists and turns through a landscape at times horrifyingly familiar but still completely compelling.
This novel is near to perfection. The characters were well developed and their emotions are expressed in an intense and compelling way. I certainly felt their grief, fear, guilt, and hope too. By the end I was a crying, and on public transportation.
There were moments of suspense and for the last 100 pages, or so, impossible to put down. I also loved the hope the story brought, even in such a dark story. There was a line Alfred said about “where there is hope, there is life. And where there is life… there is more to learn.”
I did get a little bit lost when Alfred was teaching Leo the formulas and other mathematical equations, and I’ll admit that I did skim those parts. But the story is not bogged down by it. There’s just enough mentioned to get the point across.
There is much more I want to say, but sometimes when I love a story so much I have trouble articulating my thoughts and feeling. Especially while trying to remain spoiler free. My sister actually won a Goodreads giveaway and after she read it gave it to me to read. We discussed some big moments in the book.
I also liked the Author’s Note at the end. Gross explained his inspirations for the book and the small historical liberties he took to tell this story. Which are very, very minute, and were interesting to learn. It may seem like breaking into and out of Auschwitz is far fetched but Gross explains that, in fact, there were two men who escaped (they appear in the story); and there was a man who wrote a memoir about how he broke into Auschwitz for a single night, then broke out. The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz, by Dennis Avery. Once I have recovered from the sadness of this book perhaps I will read the memoir.
The One Man has become one of my favorite WWII historical fiction novels and I recommend it to anyone who is also a reader of that genre.
5 out 5 rooks.