Not sure if I picked up too many WW II novels this year or if there has been a spate of them on the 70th anniversary of its end. The setting is the same as ‘The Plum Tree’ and ‘The narrow road to the deep north’ but it is unique in that it traces the lives of two characters on the either side – a German boy and a French Girl in what the war does to their lives. The canvas is bigger than just the war though. The girl is blind, has a supportive father and a recluse grand uncle. There is also a stone – a diamond – that is hunted by a German sergeant. The German side is written very well – the slow indoctrination, the shutting to the outside world and the shame of the loss is captured very well. The book is written beautifully, paced well and moves purposefully towards a fitting finale.
Recommendation: Must read.
The Plum Tree – Ellen Marie Wiseman
World War II is a period of history that has evoked strong interest and passion since its end. A lot of fiction has been written of that time. Many of these works have become immortal. Sophie’s Choice, and Jean Paul Sartre’s novels are a couple of examples. Wiseman attempts to present a different point of view. What did the average German (non-Nazi, non-Jew) go through? Wiseman adds an angle of a German-Jew romance and attempts to catch the mood of the period. The book works in most parts because of the strength of the story. Even though the writing is a bit jaded (the style is repetitive, sentiments look the same, shocking moments don’t make the impact they should, etc.). The poor German households and the hardships they faced during the war from the enemies within and without and the concentration camps are evoked well. Towards the last quarter however, it becomes too depressing. Too many things go wrong, and not completely realistically. The protagonist’s sister dies, father gets sent to the Dachau Camp held by American and the reader (at least this one) begins to wonder, why is his suffering not ending. I think the story should have ended at the point of the protagonist’s return from the concentration camp. Ended after the worst possible thing humans have done to each other. Anything that follows, pales in comparison. Then there is a bizarre happy ending – as if to compensate for all the bad incidents – that is hard to digest.
Recommendation: Don’t bother