The Dark Room: A Novel Hardcover – 2001
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Top Customer Reviews
The first of these, while the shortest, is also in some ways the most touching because there is a tragic innocence about Helmut's patriotism that is entirely believable. He makes up for his physical handicap and inability to participate more directly in the war by using his photographic skills to document it. That's his way of dealing with his personal guilt. The camera becomes Seiffert's metaphor for perspective as it makes a return appearance in the concluding segment of the novel.
The middle story entitled "Lore" is arguably the most direct because it depicts suffering but it is also the least satisfying of the three stories. Here, our teenage heroine escapes with her younger siblings to their grandmother's after their parents' arrest by the Allied forces at the end of the war. Seiffert's message in "Lore" isn't that Germans too suffered during the war. Rather, it is about the loss of innocence and the pain of betrayal. Lore is a young girl, barely into her teens and totally uncomprehending of the evil surrounding her. Her feeling of betrayal, upon discovering the true identity of the kindly Thomas whom she even develops a slight crush on and the truth behind the pictures of Jewish torture victims, is a searing pain she and even we find hard to bear. But the story drags on a bit and becomes repetitive and interminable past a certain point.Read more ›
All of which makes for a thoughtful and compelling read. Sieffert has a remarkable talent for saying something complex simply. Her sentences are short. The words she selects do their job better than you would ever expect simple words to do. Stray details (tree blossom, cloud, shoe leather, straw) conjure wider space. A world falls into place without you noticing.
And yet there is a problem with Rachel Sieffert's debut novel. The problem is this: this is not a novel. What you have here are two novellas and a short story. Two novellas and a short story that are connected by the fact that they are all set in Germany and revolve around events that took place during the Second World War.Read more ›
Although the protagonists (there are three) in Seiffert's book aren't actually murderers per se, they have become murderers by association; their implicit acceptance of Nazi Germany's crimes against the Jews has condemned them. There is Helmut, who is a Berlin teenager at the start of the war; Lore, a young girl who becomes yet another displaced person at the war's end; and Micha, perhaps the most interesting character, who is actually a member of the next generation. Micha is only thirty years old in 1997 when he begins to question his own ancestry and the history of his family.
I like the way Seiffert tells the stories of her three protagonists. Her prose is terse, quite muted and written entirely in the present tense. We are given only information the protagonists themselves know and understand and they come to know and understand themselves and their situations very slowly and very deliberately.
It is fitting that none of the characters in the three stories that make up "The Dark Room" fully understands the situation that surrounds him or her. Helmut, the protagonist of the first story, becomes a photographer's assistant when a birth defect keeps him out of the army. In his photographs of Berlin he notices that people keep disappearing, but it is quite some time before he understands why.
The book's second protagonist, Lore, may be the character least likely to comprehend the horrific events going on around her.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Inspired to read the novel having seen the movie based on the second story, "Lore". The writing is superb and the three narratives are utterly engaging. First Rate.Published on July 28 2013 by David Schurmann
When a friend recommended this book to me she said it was a page-turner but not enjoyable. I must say I found this to be an accurate assessment of a beautifully written but... Read morePublished on May 7 2002
These three novellas take a different approach from the usual in WW2 literature: they present the difficulties for the German people. Read morePublished on April 21 2002 by Excession
The books describes the struggle of 3 generations of Germans to cope with the war.
Helmut is 18 when the war starts. Read more
'The Dark Room' is a beautiful debut. It is captivating, lucid and thought-provoking, without being remotely pretentious. Read morePublished on March 18 2002 by A. Peel
There are two sides to every story. the vast majority of Holocaust literature has dealt with the victim's story. Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2002 by Your librarian
There have been many narratives which deal with the world's reaction to the atrocities caused by the Nazis, but few have dealt so directly with how Germans feel about inheriting... Read morePublished on Oct. 29 2001 by Eric Anderson
I enjoyed this book but it failed to move me greatly. Three stories of individuals in Germany before, during and after the war. Read morePublished on Oct. 5 2001 by Scott Pack
Three stories about the effects of the holocaust on three German (non-Jewish) families: The first two are from the point of view of children and young people who are witness to... Read morePublished on June 5 2001 by Lynn Adler