Monday, May 30, 2016

The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman

This is a very interesting angle on the typical Holocaust story.  It is told entirely from the perspective of Christine, who is a young German Christian maid who falls in love with the wealthy, half Jewish son of her employers in the months immediately prior to World War II.  Initially she and her family are worried that the class differences will make a relationship between her and Isaac impossible, but with the rise of Hitler this becomes the least of their worries.

The book covers the entire war period.  We see how at first the laws prohibit Christine from working for Isaac's family, then prohibit any relationship between them.  Despite that they continue meeting secretly until even that becomes too risky.  And, of course, eventually Isaac's family is deported to Dachau.

Because of the perspective of this book we also see the impact of Nazism on ordinary German country people.  Christine's father is drafted into the army and sent to the Russian front - they hear from him only sporadically.  The family has barely enough food, and her mother nearly starves while trying to give what their is to her four children.  The family must spend many nights in a bomb shelter when Allied air strikes begin - and her grandfather does not survive one fire bombing.  Eventually her sister is also sent to the Russian front to assist soldiers and is severely damaged by the Russian "liberation".

Throughout it all Christine remains loyal to Isaac, eventually ending up in Dachau herself for her efforts to assist him.  And after the war she refuses to remain silent about what she witnessed and goes to the Americans to do her best to see the perpetrators punished.

The book is well written and easy to read despite its heavy subject matter.  I think it's a worthwhile book to read.

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