Book Review: The Plum Tree – Ellen Marie Wiseman

The Plum TreeEllen Marie Wiseman

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

Book Review: Slaughter House-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughter House-Five: Kurt Vonnegut

It is hard to describe what Slaughter House – Five is all about. It’s about the horrors of World War II on both sides, it’s about a man’s obsession with fantasy books and flights of fancy it affords him to perceived outer space and the concept of time travel. But it only explains some aspects of the book and doesn’t do justice to the delightful  read it is. Billy Pilgrim time travels, has been to the planet Tralfamadore and has seen bombing of Dresden. Vonnegut is a true master of the art of storytelling and the tale is told simply, yet it’s compelling and the reader’s immersion in it is complete from the start. An example of the simplicity and yet depth of the narration: “Nobody took Rumsfoord’s diagnosis seriously. The staff thought Rumsfoord was a hateful old man, conceited and cruel. He often said to them, in one way or another, that people who were weak deserved to die. Whereas the staff, of course was devoted to the idea that weak people should be helped as much as possible, that nobody should die.” An amazing thing about the book is the ease with which the writer moves between past and present to the various dimensions of Billy Pilgrim’s life. Never once it causes a disruption. In fact, you look forward to the transition – whether it is to Dresden, Illium, or Tralfamadore as the story is equally exciting on all the dimensions.

Recommendation: Must Read