Review: The Plum Tree

Posted 8 July, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 8 Comments

The Plum Tree
By: Ellen Marie Wiseman
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

“Bloom where you’re planted,” is the advice Christine Bolz receives from her beloved Oma. But seventeen-year-old domestic Christine knows there is a whole world waiting beyond her small German village. It’s a world she’s begun to glimpse through music, books—and through Isaac Bauerman, the cultured son of the wealthy Jewish family she works for.

Yet the future she and Isaac dream of sharing faces greater challenges than their difference in stations. In the fall of 1938, Germany is changing rapidly under Hitler’s regime. Anti-Jewish posters are everywhere, dissenting talk is silenced, and a new law forbids Christine from returning to her job—and from having any relationship with Isaac. In the months and years that follow, Christine will confront the Gestapo’s wrath and the horrors of Dachau, desperate to be with the man she loves, to survive—and finally, to speak out.

Set against the backdrop of the German home front, this is an unforgettable novel of courage and resolve, of the inhumanity of war, and the heartbreak and hope left in its wake.

I first came across this book years ago on GoodReads. I hadn’t stumbled across very many books at that time set in Nazi Germany during World War Two and thought the story sounded interesting. I finally picked it up last year but it sort of sat and waited on my eReader ever since until I went into a bit of a WW2-theme recently with my reading.

On the one hand, things I really liked: you can feel the pressure of the Nazi laws taking root in society, growing and changing the ways people interact with each other. Christine begins to feel adrift with her best friend, Kate, she sees the way people start acting differently in their village towards the Jews in their town, even with each other. The author does a wonderful job in presenting the hardships that the general German population faced during this period, the gradual loss of supplies, the pressure from the Nazis, the constant raiding, etc. It was quite harrowing to read at times, especially the events at Dachau. I cared enough about Christine and her family and Issac to root for them, and they were really what kept me reading to the end.

Having said that, there was something I couldn’t quite place about this book. It might be the fact that there’s a lot of descriptors in this novel; too much tell and not enough show. There’s honestly more narrative than dialogue, which told the reader what the times were like for Christine and her family, but doesn’t quite engage with the characters directly; I felt for them but I feel like I didn’t really know them very well. Also, because of the vast amount of time covered in the book–1938 to around I’d say 1946 at the latest–it just felt a little unfocused, with large events and tragedies happening but then the consequences that should ripple and affect the characters forward weren’t as felt or explored as they should’ve been. This may also explain why I was perplexed by Christine’s development over the course of the novel. Sometimes she seems a little too naive to be in her early twenties, not picking up on the dangers or the situation at hand quite as quickly or quite so understanding (which may also lend to the whole more tell/not enough show element). It was a harrowing read, and to my shock I found out I was only 50% done with the book, so there’s weird feeling of events dragging out while covering such a large amount of time.

I’m also not sure how I feel about the Christine and Issac romance that’s a centrepiece of this story. I felt for the two of them and their struggle to survive and be together despite of what te Nazi government was issuing, and felt bad that their romance was cut short so early while Kate and Stefan were able to continue. But then I’m not sure how to feel about the way their romance carried out throughout the war, overcoming so many obstacles…I was obviously rooting for them, but there’s this sort of implausible feeling that I couldn’t quite shake off or suspend for some reason. Again it might have been the pacing.

Overall I’m on the fence about The Plum Tree. On the one hand it kept me glued all throughout to find out what happened to Cristine and her family, but on the other hand the pacing was felt all over the place and the writing too much on the tell side that I felt I didn’t quite know the characters as well as I could’ve. So yes, it was an okay read for me in the end.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Visit the author’s official website || Order this book from the Book Depository

Tags: , ,

8 Responses to “Review: The Plum Tree”

  1. Eeep. I was hoping for raves because I see that cover and I feel like it should be amazing! Maybe the editors felt that the book was running too long hence that whole missing section.

  2. Too much telling instead of showing always bothers me in a novel. Sometimes a certain amount of telling is necessary, but too much of it and the story and the characters lose immediacy and become less compelling. I’m sorry this book made that mistake; the premise and story have a lot of promise. I’m glad it was an OK read for you (because terrible reads are so frustrating and disappointing!) but since I’ve already got a hugely long reading wishlist, I think I’ll leave this one off it for now.

    • Yeah, it’s a fine balance between too much and too little depending on what’s going on in the story, but it was definitely uneven in this book and definitely disrupts the reading experience! Honestly, right now I can’t even remember all that much from this story, which is =/

  3. I have read quite an amount of novels set during WWII. This may sound jaded, but I feel that too many of them, especially the ones with love stories at the centre, try to hard to make you cry and forget to make you feel for the characters. You are told how sad it all is, but you are not shown enough of them to make you care. I’m sorry The Plum Tree was one of those instead of another Invisible Bridge.

    • I hear you, and perhaps they are also trying to out-do each other, which in the end most of them end up similar >_< But I still find the good read amongst them recently a la Invisible Bridge (ugh, such a good book <3 ), like All The Light We Cannot See, which is comforting & great 🙂

Leave a Reply