The Plum Tree: Book summary and reviews of The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman

The Plum Tree

By Ellen Marie Wiseman

The Plum Tree
  • Readers' rating:

  • Published in USA  Dec 2012,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

A deeply moving and masterfully written story of human resilience and enduring love, The Plum Tree follows a young German woman through the chaos of World War II and its aftermath.

"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.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Plum Tree. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

After the war, do you think people were in denial, too busy with their own problems, or just didn’t want to talk about it? Do you think they felt guilty?
I believe many Germans could not allow themselves to believe all that went on and for some time hoped it would not last. - peg

Are there contemporary situations equivalent to the Holocaust?
The situation in Syria is pretty bad, although not on as large a scale. The Khmer Rouge basically commited genocide in Cambodia in the 70s and some of the fighting in Africa has amounted to genocide. All in all, some humans don't seem to be ... - mariannes

Discuss the differences between the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany, and the treatment of blacks in the South
Many similarities existed. Power, belief of superiority over the blacks and the super German race..all grounded in hatred self promotion and evil! - peg

Do you think almost dying makes a person more aware and grateful for the little things?
I think it helps people realize what is important in their lives. - susanr

Do you think Christine saw the Americans as saviors or monsters?
Interesting question. We, as Americans, would like to think we are the good guys. What a shift to realize we have the potential to do the wrong thing. In this book Americans are pictured as both good and bad but mostly good (or is that simply my ... - jacquelynh

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A story of human survival and enduring love despite insurmountable odds, it's an original and important addition to the World War II canon." - RT Book Reviews, 4.5 stars, Top Pick!

"The Plum Tree starkly reminds us that war is hell for everyone. You won't be able to put this vivid tale of love and survival down." - Historical Novels Review

"The Plum Tree is a touching story of heroism and loss, a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of love to transcend the most unthinkable circumstances. Deft storytelling and rich characters make this a highly memorable read and a worthy addition to the narratives of the Holocaust and Second World War." - Pam Jenoff, author of The Ambassador's Daughter

"A haunting and beautiful debut novel." - Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August

"In The Plum Tree, Ellen Marie Wiseman boldly explores the complexities of the Holocaust. This novel is at times painful, but it is also a satisfying love story set against the backdrop of one of the most difficult times in human history." - T. Greenwood, author of Two Rivers

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Louise J
Horrifying & Appalling but a Great Read!
The Plum Tree was 367 pages of unbelievable writing that was so well-done. I read the book over two days just so I could make it last a little longer. Although sad and heartbreaking, the writing was so spot on that I didn’t want it to end. I’ll definitely be recommending The Plum Tree to everyone and keeping it as part of my permanent collection.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by debbie
I was there
My american soldier cousin married a german girl after WWII. I have heard her tell many stories similar to the ones in the book. The book was awesome. Note-my local library ordered the book for permanent stock.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Diane
THE PLUM TREE
Amazing story one of the best I have read of World War II and the holocaust. this book is powerful and a page turner. Very strong characters especially Christine and Issac.It tells the story of a young German girl who has a Jewish friend who she loves.
The time frame of the story is Hitler's holocaust starting pre-war and onward to after the war when the prisoners that were still alive were released from the death camps. The author understands that time in history very well.

I truly enjoyed the flow of the story from beginning to end.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Dorothy T.
Another side of the story
Much has been told and written about the fate of the Jewish people and those who protected them in German territory during World War II. In this novel, the author shows us another side of the story, that is, how German families lived through the war years, how they coped with the disappearance of some of their neighbors, and how they felt about the activities of those in power. I'd always known that not all Germans were members of the party or supporters of its dogma, but Ms. Wiseman makes her point with strongly conceived characters and a compelling plot. Although at times she indulges in extensive flowery prose (I was sometimes tempted to hurry through it when I was eager to follow the action), she delivers a novel full of romance, suspense, and a grim reminder of what man's inhumanity can do.

This is a great read and a good one for book club discussions.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Kate
Good first effort
The author has attempted to take the personal anecdotes and information she gained from relatives who lived in Germany during World War II and weave them together with the historical information regarding the Holocaust. She has described some of the most mundane tasks of daily life to show us that the ordinary German household was just like any French or English household, with the same fears, suffering and privation. These parts of the novel are not particularly engrossing. There was also something disturbing about portraying Germans as the victims of a war that was started by that Government. The questions regarding responsibility for so much suffering were not addressed. The author described the overwhelming horror of the camps where the Nazi's exterminated so many people. These sections are compelling, but the romance between her heroine Christine and Isaac does not seem significant enough against these descriptions of the Nazi's Final Solution. The personal lives of the fictional characters seemed insignificant against the actual deaths of the victims in the camps, giving the book an imbalance that I didn't like. I would like to see this author's next novel because I expect that she will do very well with the right material.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Gunta
mesmerizing
Ellen Marie Wiseman knows how to tell a story.
She also has a wealth of inner feelings to draw on which makes her story very alive. Have not read anything that even comes close to describing the emotion, the smells, the despair and unbelievable suffering of the characters in this book, so very close to the history of what happened all over that part of the world, at that time. Ellen Marie Wiseman is very courageous as she is of German extraction, she is able to talk so vividly about the tragedy of the Jews, the Germans and others in terms of her individual characters and their suffering and the reasons for their suffering. The helpful American soldier depicted in this story made me smile. This book is fantastic. Am anxiously awaiting her next one.

...7 more reader reviews

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Ellen Marie Wiseman discovered her love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in New York State. Her debut novel The Plum Tree - a WWII story about a young German woman trying to save the love of her life, a Jewish man - will be released by Kensington in January 2013. Ellen lives peacefully on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband and three dogs, where she loves to cook, watch movies, garden, and spend time with her granddaughters. She would love to have you join her on Facebook, Twitter, and on her web site: www.ellenmariewiseman.com

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