Friday, 31 May 2013

The Dark Room, Rachel Seiffert

Why I chose it: Shortlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize

Podcasts: None

Brow: with the probable exception of the Amises, I'd say that just about every book that makes it onto a Booker list is in the Upper Middle range at the least.

Summary: Three novellas all set in Germany, all dealing with World War II. In the first story, Helmut is a young patriot photographer in Berlin in the 1930s. He uses his art to document the city up to the end of the war. In the second story, Lore is a 14 year old girl living in Bavaria. Her Nazi parents have been arrested and placed in internment camps and it is up to her to get her four younger siblings all the way across Germany to her grandmother's house in Hamburg. Along the way the children are assisted by Thomas, a mysterious stranger. In the final story, set in the 1990s, Micha becomes obsessed with finding out about his grandfather's role in the war, to the detriment of his family life.

What I liked about it: I quite like this exploration of political and economic upheaval on ordinary lives and its lasting effects even unto the third generation. I was particularly affected by the story of young Lore and her desperate quest to find food and shelter as she moves her siblings through occupied Germany.

What I didn't like about it: The main character in the final story, Micha, is incredibly, hopefully deliberately frustrating. As he dithers about asking a Belorussian collaborator about the extent of his grandfather's role in the country's devastation during the war, you just want to reach onto the page and strangle him.

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