Friday, July 8, 2011

The Dark Room

The Dark Room is a novel by Rachel Seifert about Nazi Germany.  Well, it's really three separate short stories or novellas, linked by their common theme.

The first story is about Helmut.  Ineligible for the army because of a birth defect, Helmut pursues his passion for photography in Berlin.  He is meticulous in recording the changing city through photography and his hobby for counting trains and passengers at the main train station.  He captures and documents the dramatic changes without ever having their import seep into his consciousness.  A strange and unsympathetic character indeed.

In the second story, we meet Lore, thrust into caring for her four siblings after her mother is arrested for Nazi activities by the occupying forces after the war.  Her mother instructs her to make her way from Bavaria in southern Germany to Hamburg way in the north.  It's a long walk!

The last story is about Micha, a professor in modern Germany, who learns his beloved grandfather was in the SS-Waffen and suspects he was guilty of atrocities during the war.  His search for the truth about his grandfather troubles him, and strains his relationship with his family and his girlfriend.

The stories provide three very different viewpoints on Germany and the war.  I found the first one somewhat antiseptic and the last one a bit overwrought.  However, I did enjoy the book and recommend it.

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