Matt Jones

A Book Review [Part One]

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Here's the first of three reviews of books I have read recently. Thanks to Mal for rescuing this post from his RSS aggregator cache after I managed to accidentally delete it:

The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert

This novel tells the stories of three German people who live their lives in the grip of Nazi Germany. Helmut is a young photographer's apprentice who, shunning his duties, roams Berlin to visually document the evacuation of a city threatened by Allied invasion. Helmut is patriotic and would join the Nazi SS to fight for his country if it wasn't for a deformity at birth that makes him ineligible for service. The second story is set during the close of the war and is about Lore, the eldest of four children whose parents are members of the Nazi party. Realising that she is about to be arrested on charges of conspiring to commit war crimes, Lore's mother instructs her daughter to lead the rest of the children to find safety with their Grandmother in Hamburg and so set they off on a long and dangerous journey across Germany. The final story is set during present day and concerns Micha, a young teacher who is desperately trying to learn about his Grandfather's actions during the war. Was he a Nazi? Was he a murderer? Micha is unwilling to leave history alone until he finds answers to these questions that directly affect his personal heritage.

Seiffert has tackled the difficult subject matter of life in Nazi Germany with three very human stories. Of course, countless stories about the Second World War have been written, but few are written from the perspective of those were directly related to Nazis or their supporters. All of the characters in this book, either innocent or guilty, are trapped in their own personal dark room; lost, confused, naive. Seiffert writes about complex emotions using simple, clear prose and while this book maybe emotionally draining, its certainly worth reading.