The Writer is actually the story of two writers, Johannes and Mathias, and the network of people who help them survive the war in Nazi-occupied Austria. It is a story of survival, crime, terrible brutality, and also of love amidst the darkness of the time. The chain of events in the story are very true to actual events in history, and the story itself, while fiction, could easily have been a true story. I enjoyed the grey areas between good and evil, the credibility of the plot, and also the overall likeability of most of the characters. I also enjoyed how well the author develops the villains in the plot, they really helped turn the novel into a historical fiction thriller, rather than it being just plain historical fiction.
I liked how J.C. Maetis decided to forego the usual and most obvious WW2 plot settings and instead used Vienna as the center of the action, and Sobibór as example of a death camp. It introduces readers to the realities of the Anschluss, to how rapidly anti-Jewish laws were forced upon the Austrian population, and how terrifying it was to be Jewish and Austrian at the time. I also liked how The Writer is both historical fiction and thriller, and the initial sense of foreboding that builds up in the first chapters develops into tremendous nail-biting suspense that has the reader fearing the next page but not able to put the book down until they reach the end.
One thing that I would personally have liked to see would have been a better idea of dates within the storyline (maybe at the top of each chapter), as the story jumps forward quite a bit in some places. I kept thinking we were still in 1938 but we were really already in 1942, and had to go back a few times just to check at what point I was in terms of WW2. Not really a huge deal though!
All in all The Writer is a great read, with the right balance of real life events, fiction, and suspense, and it keeps the reader entertained until the very end. There are some moments that probably require a trigger warning in terms of graphic death scenes, but I’m glad the author didn’t shy away from the absolutely horrific unique goal of the Nazi run death camp Sobibór – this is something that should never be forgotten by anyone. I really loved how the novel fits both the thriller and the historical fiction genres, and readers of both will enjoy it tremendously.