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The Plum Tree Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington House Pub Ltd; 1 edition (December 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0758278438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0758278432
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (274 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the calm before the storm, Christine Bölz soaks in an idyllic morning in her small German town, basking in her new relationship with Isaac Bauerman, son of the wealthy Jewish family in whose house she works as a domestic servant. The glow of their new love is quickly tested as Hitler’s armies begin to move, and restrictions are placed on interactions between Jews and non-Jews. Spanning the pre- to postwar years, the novel follows Christine and her family as they endure the hardships of war. Persevering through threats from the Gestapo and the horrors of Dachau, Christine keeps her hopes for a future with Isaac alive. Although the major story line is supposed to be the love story between Christine and Isaac, their relationship develops too quickly, and the level of commitment they have for one another seems out of sync. Considerable time and attention are devoted to quotidian activities of country life and to describing setting and scenery. Readers who like slower-paced sentimental novels set during WWII will enjoy this novel. --Eve Gaus


"This title is an extraordinary debut novel in which the author's childhood trips visiting family in Germany impart a heartbreaking realism. A Holocaust story told from the unlikely perspective of a German teenage girl in love with a Jewish boy, it explores the horrors and fears of innocent citizens on the homefront, as well as the risks they were willing to take to do the right thing. Ultimately 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!

"Told from the perspective of a young, non-Jewish German woman living through the deprivations of war and the rising fear of the Nazis, The Plum Tree is a beautifully written first novel. Not every non-Jew in Germany in the 1930s was a Nazis; far from it. The Plum Tree follows a family torn by feelings of patriotism for their country and the growing Nazi terror darkening their doorstep... 

Ellen Marie Wiseman weaves a story of intrigue, terror, and love from a perspective not often seen in Holocaust novels."--Jewish Book World

"Wiseman eschews the genre's usual military conflicts in favor of the slow, inexorable pressure of daily life during wartime, lending an intimate and compelling poignancy to this intriguing debut."--Publisher's Weekly

The Plum Tree will find good company on the literal or electronic shelves of those who appreciated Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian, Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, and Night by Elie Wiesel. Though in the same picture frame as these great classics, Ms. Wiseman's story stands firmly on its own two feet and deserves a bright spotlight on the literary stage.-New York Journal of Books

More About the Author

Ellen Marie Wiseman discovered her love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in NYS. 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 - was 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, @EllenMarieWise and on her web site:

Customer Reviews

It is very hard to put this book down.
Denise Gibbs
A wonderful story of World War 2 told by the innocent German people who lived through the horrors of Hitler and his murderous regime..
I love historical fiction and this book was a decent read!!!
Sterling Dee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Courtney on December 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Christine, I want you to understand something. War makes perpetrators of some, criminals of others, and victims of everyone. Not all of the soldiers on the front are fighting for Hitler and his ideals. Just because a soldier is in the battle, doesn't mean that he believes in the war."

The Plum Tree is a story of a young girl (Christine) and her family during WWII and the Nazi occupation of Germany. Beyond that, it is a tale of love and survival, of loss and strength, and a tale of hope. It is historical fiction, woven with a tale of romance between a young German girl and a young German Jew at the height of the terror in Nazi-occupied Germany.

We have all learned about WWII, Nazi Germany, the concentration camps, and the horrors that befell Jews in Eastern Europe during Hitler's reign; however, this book brought this rich and terrifying history to life through the eyes of a young German girl and her family in ways that I had not experienced before. This is the first book that I have read from a German viewpoint rather than that of a concentration-camp or German Jew's perspective. And the story was chilling.

Christine is a sympathetic protagonist who was easy to identify with. When the book opens, she is only 17 and is in love with a young Jewish boy from a well-to-do family. Predictably (although I don't mean this as a slight), their world changes when the war begins and Jewish families are targeted by Hitler and his men.

We follow Christine through the changes in her hometown (including air raids, bombings, rationing of food, destruction, Jewish families being whisked away in the night to work campus, street shootings, and unspeakable violence).
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Denise Gibbs on January 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
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 family.

My only criticism is that I think I would have liked to see Christine be less emotional. True, she experienced one hardship and struggle after another... I simply felt that she was too much of a crybaby at times for the heroine that she truly was. This is my personal preference, though; other readers may have no problem with it. Otherwise, this is a really terrific debut novel, and I will recommend it to many others!
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In telling the story from the viewpoint of a Christian-Jewish couple, the author is able to explore the deprivations of Nazi Germany from the experiences of both populations. As the author writes in her notes, some people valiantly acted to help the victims of the concentration camps at great peril to themselves. They in turn, along with the inhabitants of the camps, were exposed to great danger in the vicissitudes of war and in the bombing attacks of the Allies.

The story is important. I am not able to get past the device of portraying Dachau as an extermination camp instead of a work camp, which the author acknowledges in her notes. There was no selection process per ce there. Although this a fiction novel, I feel there is danger in conflating the camps even for this purpose. . The Holocaust deniers are all too eager for inaccuracies to bolster their claims.

I enjoyed the story, but at times I found the writing bland. It was written from the passionate view of the Christian woman in a doomed relationship, but it often failed to engage me passionately. Some of the plot is unlikely. The prose is easy and fluent, but I don't think this ease is always a fit for the content. I do think this writer shows promise, and I will be interested to see what she writes next.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By B. Claypole White on December 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll be honest, I had mixed feelings about reading The Plum Tree. As the wife of a Jew and the mother of a teenager who would have been considered impure by the Nazis, I struggle with anything that circles the Holocaust. However, as a Brit, I grew up on firsthand stories of hardship during the Second World War. It was always the stories of everyday actions--some heroic, some not--that resonated with me. And this is what I loved most about The Plum Tree--the level of detail that allows readers to experience the lives of ordinary Germans during a moment in history that was anything but ordinary.

And yet The Plum Tree is much more than just a glimpse into rural family life during the evils of the Nazi regime. It's also a thumping good read--a hopeful story of survival, courage, and resilience. Christine is a fabulous heroine, and once I hit the half-way mark, you could not have wrestled her from me with a crowbar.

I hate spoilers, so I'll only say this: The novel is not over once the Allies liberate Germany. The plot twists and the shades of grey layered into Christine's story kept me engrossed until the last page. As her father says, "War makes victims all."

I highly recommend this wonderful debut novel.
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