The March meeting was hosted by Colette. Present were Beth, Betty, Carla, Colette, Marg, Michèle and Shirley. Colette had some wonderful cheese and crackers, lovely savoury puff pastry hors d'oeuvres, a scrumptious amoretto cheesecake and of course, wine, coffee and tea.
This month's book presented by Betty was The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman. Ms. Wiseman is a first generation American, her family immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. The Plum Tree was her first novel, published in 2012. It was inspired by the stories her mother told her of life in Germany during World War II. She has since written 3 more novels.
The Plum Tree follows a young working class woman and her family as they struggle through the chaos and devastation of World War II in Germany. Before the war, Christine and her mother worked for an affluent Jewish family, the Bauerman's in their village and she falls in love with the young man of the family, Isaac. As the war begins, she and her mother are forbidden from working for the Jewish family. Christine and Isaac try to see each other in secret but it eventually becomes impossible and dangerous and as the war continues, the Bauerman's are taken to the Concentration Camp, Dachau. The story chronicles the difficult life of her family and Christine's constant search for Isaac.
Members thought the book was a good read and found it interesting to have a story from the perspective of a German family. There was a lot of detail about daily life during the war, the rations, the struggle to keep a kitchen garden so that vegetables and fruit were available for the family. We learn what the family ate, the rye bread that the mother made, the eggs they gathered from the hens they managed to keep, the goat's milk they diluted to ensure everyone in the family had their ration. Plum trees in the garden provided preserves in the winter.
There is significant description of the destruction of towns and villages, the air raids and shelters where villagers gathered when the Allied planes dropped their bombs. There were also some horrendous scenes described from Dachau.
Some members expressed scepticism with respect to the love story since Christine and Isaac had little time together. However one of our members told the story of her parents who knew each other for only a few months before her father was sent Europe during the war and their love grew and endured the long absence. They also felt it was a bit incredulous that Christine could travel back to Dachau to look for her father and the plot that was concocted to prove Stefan's (a SS officer from their village) involvement in the atrocities committed in Dachau. It did however add a lot of drama to the story.
The story does have a happy ending that is important for some of our members however we felt that it ended too quickly, everything tied up in a ribbon type of ending. Though it could have been better edited, we felt it was a good first novel. Thank you Betty for a good choice this month.