I received this book as a Goodreads Firstreads Giveaway. I had not heard of the movie and still have not seen it, but I do enjoy reading about WWII, which is the timeframe of this book.
Each of the characters is German, and Seiffert attempts to tell the story of the Holocaust from the viewpoint of the perpetrators, or at least that of their more innocent kinsmen. This reminded me of Zusak's 'The Book Theif,' which has a similar premise but is better executed, in my opinion. Seiffert has a lovely writing style that is more complex than most modern novels, which I did enjoy. She takes us into the worlds of the different characters without giving many details but leaving the reader to fill in some blanks. This style reminded me a little bit of Hilary Mantel in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. Unfortunately, those writing literary novels seem to like to fool around with grammar rules in order to enhance their sophistication. Seiffert left out quotation marks altogether and replaced them with dashes at the beginning of dialogue. I don't know why, and I didn't like it. Otherwise, I greatly enjoyed her writing.
Two main issues kept me from enjoying this book as much as either Zusak or Mantel. First, this book is really made up of three unrelated short stories. I kept waiting for the characters to become somehow intertwined, but they did not. Breaking up the story this way left me with less of a connection to any of the characters, and we never really reach a conclusion with the first two, though we know enough to imagine what may happen with the rest of their lives. The other issue I had with this book was that, while the first two stories take place during the war, the third story is about a German man in the 1990's researching his grandfather's part in the SS. This more modern story was not as interesting or well written as the first two.
The first section of the book focuses on Helmut, a young man with a birth defect that keeps him from the war until the bitter end when the Germans used the old, infirm, and other "leftovers" for the final defense of Berlin against the Red Army. His story is touching and sad even before his fate is left unknown.
The second, and I believe longest, section is about the title character, "Lore," the oldest of five children left to fend for themselves when their Nazi parents are taken by Allies at the end of the war. Though the children's ages are never given, they seem painfully young for the trek across war-torn Germany in the attempt to get to their grandmother's house. Lore is tough and resourceful, but also completely naïve about the actions that have turned the rest of the world against her homeland.
Finally, Micha is the young German in more modern times hoping that his research into his grandfather's role in the SS will bring him news other that what he believes he will find. Not only was the modern timeline not as interesting, but Micha was not a character that I could really sympathize with. While I thought some good points were made about the fact that when we talk about WWII we tend to cry for the victims and not think about our links to the perpetrators, overall this section was slow moving on a course to nowhere. I thought Micha spent far too much time crying, procrastinating, and punishing those around him for not being as concerned about events from 55 years ago as he was.
Overall, this was a unique look at WWII that reminds us that not all of the victims were Jewish, not all Germans were evil, and sometimes war makes people do things that they would not otherwise dream of doing.