Friday, December 31, 2010

Orange January Starts Tomorrow - Prizes, Fun and Great Books!

(Cross posted from my blog)

While I know many of you (including me) have already started your Orange January reading, the fun officially starts tomorrow. Here's a quick recap to get you ready for a month of "Orangey goodness."*

LibraryThing Group
We have assembled a wonderful group of readers on LibraryThing for Orange January. Please consider stopping by, introducing yourself and setting up a thread of your Orange January 2011 books.

Facebook Page
The Orange January/July Facebook page is already 80 strong! If you are on Facebook and haven't liked this page, please do so! Remember, I will be posting this month's prizes and activities only on the Facebook page, so please don't miss out.

Orange Prize Project
If you write reviews about your Orange January books, please consider posting them on the Orange Prize Project blog. It's also a great place to figure out what Orange books you want to read.

A word about the prizes
The prizes start tomorrow! I will post the day's activity or question on the Facebook page between 6-8am EST. You will have until 9pm EST to complete the task and leave a comment on the post. Check out my earlier post for complete prize details, including the list of books up for grabs.

Special note: You may like the day's activity or question but don't want to win the book. Feel free to participate anyway! In your post comment, denote that you don't want to be included in the drawing.

Any questions? Just let me know in the comments or e-mail me at Let the Orangey Goodness begin!

*I stole the term "Orangey Goodness" from my friend, Laura. I plan on using it every day in January!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert (Jill)

The Dark Room
By Rachel Seiffert
Completed November 30, 2010

Over the past year or two, I have been drawn to books about World War II. Most are told from the perspective of the Allied nations or Jewish people affected by the Holocaust. I am glad to have stumbled upon Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room, which offers the perspective of the average German citizen affected by World War II.

The Dark Room is divided into three separate stories:

1) Helmet is a young photographer’s apprentice, whose family supported Hitler and prospered during The Third Reich’s heyday. Even at war’s end, Helmet still clung to Nazi Germany’s ideals. Then, one day, he stumbles into a round-up of gypsies by German soldiers and sees the gross mistreatment of these people. He took pictures of the atrocity and ran away from the scene. As he reflects over his photos, you feel his heartbreak for a nation lost in so many ways.

2) Lore is a teenage girl – one of six children – who must embark on a treacherous journey from Bavaria to Hamburg at the end of the war. Through Lore’s journey, you see how war affected the home front and the people who once were bound by the same cause. No longer united, they stole and cheated from each other. Like Helmet, Lore didn’t realize Germans was killing innocent people, until she saw pictures posted in a village. Confused by what she saw, she befriended a young man, Tomas, who confirmed the genocide. Lore was devastated, especially as she considered her father and brother might have been involved in these mass murders.

3) Michael is a school teacher living in 1990’s Germany who began wondering why his grandfather had been imprisoned for so long after World War II. He began to research and learned that his grandfather was part of the Waffen SS, the elite police force of the German Army. He traces his grandfather’s service to Belarus and traveles there to learn more. The important theme in Michael’s section is national guilt – how after 50+ years, some Germans truly mourned what their country did, while others didn’t grasp it, or were too far removed from the war to be impacted. Michael, though, couldn’t forget and carried the weight of guilt for his whole family.

Admittedly, The Dark Room is a bit bleak, but Seiffert pulls you right in so you can experience the characters’ emotions. Seiffert writes simply but effectively, and her sparse prose adds to the brevity of her stories. Despite the grim subject matter, I found this book to be enlightening and engaging – and would highly recommend it, especially to those who believe, like me, that war has no true winner. ( )