Review: The Passenger, by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

It seems like everyone who reads this books loves it, and the praise from book reviewers is deafening. Allow me to offer a dissenting view.

While the life story of the author is tragic and moving (a Jewish refugee from Germany who eventually lost his life in a U-boat attack), I did not find this book moving or believable.

It tells the story of a German Jewish businessman who runs away from his home (and his non-Jewish wife) on the Kristallnacht in 1938 and then races across Germany by train. No one is pursuing him — indeed, no one seems to notice him — and he has no end goal in sight. He just goes from one city to another, back and forth. The one thing he sort-of tries, crossing the border into Belgium, is a non-starter. And that’s the whole story. Nothing else really happens.

The central character is unappealing and uninteresting. His obsession about the money he carries with him, and the money he has lost, seems almost like a caricature of how Jews were portrayed by the Nazis. His indifference to the fate of his wife seems to play to that role as well.

I was so hoping for a better book …