“For seventeen-year-old Christine Bolz, the war began with a surprise invitation to the Bauermans’ holiday party. On that brilliant fall day in 1938, it was impossible to imagine the horrors to come.” Ellen Marie Wiseman, THE PLUM TREE
Ellen Marie Wisemen’s novel, THE PLUM TREE, was published in December of 2012, and is 304 pages. Ellen is in my writer “support” group, Book Pregnant, and I’ve been following her process with interest because of my enthusiasm for historical fiction.
Set in Germany during the second world war, THE PLUM TREE, is the story of a young, poor, Christian woman who falls in love with her wealthy employer’s son, a young, Jewish man named Isaac. As their secret love blooms, Hitler’s dark shadow begins to spread over the land by way of anti-semitic posters, propaganda, and oppressive laws, including the Nazi proclamation that Christians could no longer work for Jews.
Torn apart as their love is just beginning to bloom, Christine and Isaac believe their bond cannot be broken by physical separation alone, and vow to find each other after the war. But as the increasing horrors of living in war-time Germany build, Christine and Isaac find themselves facing the unimaginable hell of the Nazi concentration camps, where every moment of every day means the difference between life and death, survival and destruction.
THE PLUM TREE is powerful and highly evocative. Memorable and honorable characters populate its pages, and Wiseman provides a window into the lives of ordinary German citizens as horror struck by the Nazis as the rest of the world. Her attention to research and historical detail is clear and fascinating, and I learned so much about the German people at that time that I’d never known. Christine and Isaac are worthy protagonists, facing hardship with humanity, determination, and vast but believable courage, and the portrayal of the bonds of family in THE PLUM TREE is particularly moving.
It’s no easy task to write a novel set during the second World War that explores new territory with characters of the greatest worth and hope, but Wiseman has done so to great effect. I was moved to tears many times during THE PLUM TREE, and its characters will stay with me long after I’ve finished reading the book. If you enjoyed Tatiana de Rosnay’s SARAH’S KEY or Jenna Blum’s THOSE WHO SAVE US, you will love THE PLUM TREE. I give it my highest recommendation.