The Plum Tree is two novels in one. It’s an emotionally wrenching story of one German family’s war experience from 1938 to 1945. It’s also the author’s attempt to share recollections from her own German family during the same period. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
This is quite a sympathetic portrait of ordinary German citizens, most of whom come across as critical and unwilling bystanders to the Nazi regime. The novel is built around the Romeo and Juliet story of a poor German girl, Christine, who falls in love with a wealthy, Jewish boy, Isaac, before World War II begins.
Through their story, and those of their two families we witness the growing horrors of the war — increasingly restrictive laws imposed on Jews, early justifications for World War II, the growing Nazi campaign to eliminate European Jewry and control mass communications, impossibly harsh conditions of life in concentration camps. the difficult privations German citizens endured during the war, and the brutal post-war recovery period, once the Allies won the war.
Detailed and realistic descriptions expose the internal psychological struggling people faced as they wrestled with the sometimes conflicting feelings of revenge, disbelief, guilt, shame, and each individual’s passionate and sometimes amoral desire to survive. This is not an easy book to read.
At the same time, the story is powerful, gripping and you will desperately turn pages, waiting to find out what happens. Wiseman’s story clearly illustrates that war causes suffering on all sides. And that good and evil exist on both sides as well.