Release date: October 4, 2016
First published in Germany in 2014
My rating: 3.5 out of 5
*I received a free advance copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Short Of It:
"Sirius" was a completely different take on a WWII story. I enjoyed the creativity -- and the dog, obviously -- but it did have some flaws. Still, it was good enough that I'd recommend it to any lover of dogs and WWII fiction.
The Long Of It:
Sirius is a very special fox terrier. Not only does he have a wonderful personality -- both spunky and philosophical -- he's got an enhanced ability to understand and communicate with humans.
He's beloved by all who meet him, particularly his family, the Liliencrons, who have the misfortune of being Jews living in Berlin in 1938. One horrific night, Sirius saves them from the gestapo -- and that begins Sirius's rollercoaster journey from Germany to Hollywood to the silver screen to the circus and, in a twist of fate, back to Berlin where he winds up in the lap of Hitler himself. With inside information -- and the unique ability to express himself to humans -- Sirius begins to aid the resistance. Meanwhile the Liliencron family struggles to find a place for themselves amidst the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood golden age.
One of the things I struggled a bit with was the meshing of two very different things: an extraordinary dog and his adventures in Hollywood and beyond, and the horrors of the Holocaust. I think that may have been Crown's point -- to show the atrocities of WWII through a different lens, and he does indeed mention many actual happenings -- but it seemed incongruous at times.
I was also irritated with the writing from time to time. It's written -- at least, the advance e-book copy I had -- in one long go with no chapters, just asterisks to separate thoughts. Sometimes there would only be one sentence between asterisks, and then suddenly we're on to something else -- and it just made the whole thing seem to lack flow and transition. The writing had a choppy feel to it, which is perhaps because it was translated from German.
As well, I was under the impression that the book was narrated by Sirius, but it's told in third person with insights into what many different characters are thinking, particularly Mr. Liliencron
Despite those issues, I still enjoyed "Sirius." It was a fun read and an interesting re-imagining of history, which gives a tenacious little dog the power to affect the outcome of WWII.