This is a stunning book...not an easy book, or a simple book, but stunning. Hegi's portrait of Trudi Montag is beautifully drawn. She is a fully realized character, with traits that we admire but with a hard edge of her own. Her perspective is that of an outsider, and as such any of us who ever felt on the outside of things can easily relate to her.
The real main character of her book is the town that she lives in. Peopled with quirky characters, the edge in this book sneaks up on you. People who seem odd but harmless as the book begins become terrifying supporters of the Nazi regime. And those who seem odd but vaguely menacing, end up showing true heroism. Nothing is ever quite what it seems.
Hegi's prose is rich and evocative. She goes for poetry over accuracy, hence her translation of kindreich as "child-rich" rather than as fertile. The equation of fertility with riches further heightens our sense of Trudi as an outsider.
I must admit that the idea that Trudi, a dwarf, could actually survive the Third Reich bothered me just a bit. I ended up accepting it as a fictional image. Truth in fiction does not always have to mirror actual truth. Sometimes poetic truth can be stronger.