by Ellen Marie Wiseman 24 Dec 2012
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.
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? (8 responses)
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? (2 responses)
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 behaving any better than the Nazis - mariannes
Discuss the differences between the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany, and the treatment of blacks in the South (6 responses)
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? (7 responses)
I think it helps people realize what is important in their lives - susanr
Do you think Christine saw the Americans as saviors or monsters? (12 responses)
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 mindset?). I'm sure some of our "bad"... - jacquelynh
Do you think Christine was envious of his family’s wealth? How do you think Isaac felt about her family? (8 responses)
I don't think that wealth or lack of wealth was an issue for either of them - susanr
Do you think fear of the future made Isaac and Christine's love stronger and more passionate? (8 responses)
It would be interesting to follow up on these two. Severe hardship and tragedy can throw two people together and it looks and feels like love but it doesn't necessarily hold up. I would love to look in on them many years down the roa - rebajane
Do you think Isaac’s decision was based on loyalty to his parents and sister? (4 responses)
Yes I think that he thought that his family had a better chance of surviving if he was with them - susanr
Do you think Maria died by accident trying to get rid of the baby, or did she kill herself? (15 responses)
I agree that Maria didn't care if she killed herself or if she caused a miscarriage. Falls don't usually cause a miscarriage, but Maria probably didn't know that, or was desperate enough to try it anyway - mariannes
Do you think the Holocaust could have been stopped if information had been more readily available? (17 responses)
Possibly, I know my father said that it took so long to get information from one place to the next and I remember Viet Nam how the news reports that we were getting were 2 and 3 weeks old until the film was made and brought back her and by the time the people stateside were given the information... - llsmill
Do you think the will to live is the same for everyone, or is it stronger in some than others? (11 responses)
davinamw - that's such a horrible experiment! I know there are important studies that need to be pursued but even though I'm a bit repulsed by rats I can't fathom such cruelty.
But I understand the point of the experiment and it certainly makes a lot of sense. I'd be surprised had it turned... - lisag
How do you think Christine changed over the course of the novel? (2 responses)
In the beginning, she was a young girl in love with Issac. She saw nothing wrong with the fact that he was a Jew. I don't think she ever saw anything wrong with that! She changed quite a bit during the novel, going from a young, idealistic, not so informed girl to a woman who was aware of what... - Santa Fe Cowgirl
I found more in this book than the love story! (10 responses)
I appreciated it much more because, as others mentioned, it taught history within the context of the lives of these fictional people who felt authentic. It makes the history feel more personal and the facts easier to identify with and remember if you come to associate a story with the otherwise... - lisag
If Christine hadn't found tht Isaac was alive, do you think she would have ended up with Jake? (4 responses)
I agree that Christine is a very strong woman because of the life she lived. Therefore I don't think she would have ended up with Jake. She feels strongly about her family and I don't think she would leave them. To develop a relationship with Jake would be a long process with the communication... - jonnav
Not all Germans or all military were party members. Does this surprise you? (8 responses)
Of course people disagreed..but fear kept them quie - peg
Overall, what did you think of The Plum Tree? (29 responses)
I liked this book. I liked all the description, especially of life before the war. It made the place and time come alive for me, and I still have vivid impressions from the book. One problem I did have, however, was the relationship between Isaac and Christine. It seemed like they were suddenly... - mariannes
What do you think it was like in Germany for the women left behind? (3 responses)
Very, very difficult due to hard work necessary for survival, and constant uncertainty. Terrific physical and emotional hardships - peg
What does the plum tree represent? (10 responses)
I think the plum tree represents life. Christine thought the plum tree and Isaac were dead, buttheyboth lived - mariannes
What made Hitler such a charismatic leader that he was able to control such a vast number of people? What qualities must he have had? (12 responses)
The German people were in a bad way after WWI and Hitler told them what they wanted to hear about the greatness of Germany. That's only one factor, of course - mariannes
Why do you think Mutti agrees to put food out for the passing Jewish prisoners? Would you have done the same thing? (7 responses)
I think Mutti put out food because that was the humane thing to do and something she was able to do under the circumstances. It did place her family and herself in danger, but it appeared that Mutti was careful and took a calculated risk. On the other hand, Christine's actions placed her family... - kathleenr
Will this be a Bestseller? (15 responses)
I don't know, for a first book it would be great for her but a stretch. Before this book, I read the book The Baker's Daughter, same subject plus other things involved. I am currently reading The Invisible Bridge, which just came out in paperback and that is on the same type of subject and I have... - llsmill
Writing style (7 responses)
I finished the book this past weekend. The writing style was such that I was able to feel the emotions, imagine the noise, the smell, feel hunger. Excellent descriptive writing. I felt that I was there with Christine and Isaac. I noticed the book became much more descriptive after returning from... - llsmill
"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
Rated of 5
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 of 5
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 of 5
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 of 5
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 of 5
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 of 5
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.
Rated of 5
Wonderful debut novel by Ellen Marie Wiseman
This is the story of Christine, a young German girl and her true love, Isaac, a Jewish fellow from a wealthy family. Other primary characters include Christine's very likable family, secondary characters being Isaac's family, Christine's friend Kate and various villagers. The story is set in a small village in Nazi-occupied Germany during WW2 which is my favorite period of history.
The story follows Christine's romance with Isaac and her family's struggles through the war which includes bombings, hunger, death and concentration camps--all of the horrific events that occurred in WW2. As the story advances, we see how the war changes Christine, how she copes and reigns over tragedy and hardship. It is very hard to put this book down.
The beauty of a good WW2 novel is in the details, and this author certainly provides the reader with a plethora of authentic details. It made my heart sing when she named four of my very favorite WW2 novels (THOSE WHO SAVE US, SKELETONS AT THE FEAST, THE BOOK THIEF and SARAH'S KEY) in the acknowledgements as being books she relied upon in her research. She also acknowledged FRAUEN: GERMAN WOMEN RECALL THE THIRD REICH which is fantastically interesting. Every time I read a WW2 novel about the day-to-day life of the average German, I learn more than I knew before, and this author really provided a lot of new fascinating details. It is most heartwarming to know that many of them came from her German mother and
This is a really terrific debut novel, and I will recommend it to many others
Rated of 5
DON'T MISS THIS ONE
Some may think this is just another WWII horror story but it isn't. Yes, it is a horror story giving fascinating facts about what life was actually like in the concentration camps - the despair allied with hope.Yet, it is far more than Concentration camp horror. It tells about home life in the midst of war. It also tells of love complications, family, community, and personal complications. The book contains many twists and turns showing that all of the horror isn't just black and white and decisions made along the way and may bring unexpected consequences. The characters are well drawn and believable. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Rated of 5
I couldn't put down The Plum Tree
The Plum Tree captured my heart and I carried it around until I was finished reading, stealing moments whenever I could just to get in another page or two or ten.
Not only was the WWII, the German landscape, the family characterizations, and the historical essence incredibly vivid -- but it was well-balanced. I didn't feel too overwhelmed by the sadness or by the love story. I thought Wiseman's writing was eloquent, literary and yet completely accessible to everyone.
I believe that The Plum Tree is going to become a modern classic love story.
Rated of 5
Loved This Book!
The Plum Tree, by Ellen Wiseman, brings the reader into Germany during WWII. At the heart of the book is Christine Bolz, a young woman who lives with her family in a small village. This book, hauntingly terrifying yet filled with great humanity, explores the ethical dilemma facing citizens when their government has gone wrong. I completely enjoyed this book!
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