I’ll start right off by saying I’m only giving it the 2.5 star rating. 2.5 stars means “meh, take it or leave it.” And that is so bizarre that I’m giving it this rating, when every single rating on Goodreads is vastly, vastly different from mine. But I can honestly say and from the very beginning, it never grabbed a strong hold on me. There were just far too many unnecessary details throughout that didn’t allow for more than just a passing interest in finishing the story. The climatical ending holds beautiful writing, but by this point, it was too late for me.
Ernst Vogler, the young German sent on a mission to bring back an important Roman sculpture to the Furher, or Der Kunstsammler (the Collector). His story is told through two time periods, one 5 years following WWII and the other during the week-long time period in 1938. In 1938 he is given the duty to travel to Italy to collect a sculpture and see its safe transfer back to Germany.
Synopsis (from Goodreads): Ernst Vogler is twenty-six years old in 1938 when he is sent to Rome by his employer—the Third Reich’s Sonderprojekte, which is collecting the great art of Europe and bringing it to Germany for the Führer. Vogler is to collect a famous Classical Roman marble statue, The Discus Thrower, and get it to the German border, where it will be turned over to Gestapo custody. It is a simple, three-day job.
Things start to go wrong almost immediately. The Italian twin brothers who have been hired to escort Vogler to the border seem to have priorities besides the task at hand—wild romances, perhaps even criminal jobs on the side—and Vogler quickly loses control of the assignment. The twins set off on a dangerous detour and Vogler realizes he will be lucky to escape this venture with his life, let alone his job. With nothing left to lose, the young German gives himself up to the Italian adventure, to the surprising love and inevitable losses along the way.
Ernst is described as the ideal German, not questioning, paying strict attention to detail, efficient and is supportive of this growing attention to the preservation or creation of a strong and united Germany. Or rather, this is how Ernst feels best describes himself and how others see him. Actually, I think Ernst was chosen for this duty because of his sheep-like and non-questioning personality. This is what allows those in Italy (the Germans actually) to pull the old “bait and switch” on Hitler and send Ernst on his way with only a copy of the statue (The Roman Discus Thrower).
What follows is a lengthy and drawn out journey, filled with many unnecessary details that only continued to bore me. Oh it had such potential and I really wanted to love it so, but it just kept falling flat for me.
Ernst and his two Italian companions are to get the statue to the German border in 3 days. Unfortunately the mishaps that follow never really amount to anything that would create fierce tension or intense worry that you might imagine would come from this type of story. Pulling a switcheroo on Hitler? Being chased by people that are supposed to support Hitler in his quest for collecting Europe’s artistic treasures? Unfortunately, in my opinion it just never gains that momentum or intensity you imagine one would feel reading this story so that once you reach the climax, you’re interest has waned too much to be drawn back to it.
It had such potential, what an exciting premise, but I still feel it was too bogged down with unnecessary, meandering descriptions that took so much away from this story. I have not really read about this aspect of Hitler’s reign….the looting of Europe’s finest works of art for the Nazi cultural project, and Ernst’s job following the war of repatriating these great works back to the countries from which they were stolen. But the beautiful story and writing happens too late for me to warrant a higher rating. That makes me sad, but throughout I really didn’t feel overwhelming love, until the final two chapters.
..vast effort, the most important job of my life, far more important than the job I’d been given in 1938. It was a chance for me to redeem myself, the first time I even dared to think about what life could become again. Ernst Volger