This extraordinary novel is seen through the eyes of Johannes, an avid member of the Hitler Youth in the 1940s. After he is severely injured in a raid, he discovers his parents are hiding a Jewish girl called Elsa behind a false wall in their large house in Vienna.
His initial horror turns to interest, then love and obsession. After the disappearance of his parents, Johannes finds he is the only one aware of Elsa's existence in the house, the only one responsible for her survival. Both manipulating and manipulated, Johannes dreads the end of the war: with it will come the prospect of losing Elsa and their relationship, which ranges through passion and obsession, dependence and indifference, love and hate.
This gripping, masterful work examines truth and lies at both political and personal levels, laying bare the darkest corners of the human soul.