Elsa turned the corner of Schillerstrasse, where all the flower boxes were red and white. Geraniums. Just red and white. She wondered when they would cultivate a black one to celebrate all that they had ruined.
(from A Parachute in the Lime Tree, page 67)
A Parachute in the Lime Tree is a beautifully written novel set in Ireland during World War II. Annemarie Neary expertly weaves together the stories of three characters: Oskar, a German soldier who abandons the war after the bombing of Belfast with plans to find the Jewish girl he loves, who left Berlin on the Kindertransport; Kitty, a young Irish girl who hides Oskar after she discovers his parachute in the lime trees on her family’s property; and Elsa, a young girl worried about the family she left behind in Berlin whose music is her saving grace. The war weighs heavy on each of these characters, and Neary paints a realistic portrait of the relationships they forge and the decisions they make in such uncertain times.
I absolutely loved this book, especially the characters. They were all believable and brilliantly drawn, and Neary connects them all in a way that never feels forced. Oskar is endearing in that he’s willing to risk everything for love. He knows the consequences of desertion, but his inaction back home with regard to Elsa and the treatment of the Jews in Berlin is a heavy burden for him to bear. Neary portrays him realistically as a non-Nazi German, someone who is appalled at the direction the country is moving but too weak to do anything about it. Oskar is not a hero at first glance, but it took much bravery to do what he did.
Kitty is endearing in her flaws. She’s been saddled with the responsibility of caring for her grieving mother, but she’s young and in need of excitement that cannot be had in her country home. It’s not surprising that she’s attracted to Oskar and agrees to help him, given that he represents the wildness and hint of danger she has been seeking. Meanwhile, Elsa is the most haunting character. She has lost so much and is forced to live with strangers in a country that’s not her own, yet she finds a way to fit in and even excel.
Neary does a wonderful job showing how war was hell and how many people didn’t have a happy ending, and though she doesn’t focus too much on the horrible things that happen during wartime, it’s always there so the reader cannot forget the enormity of it all. The novel also touches on Ireland’s neutrality during World War II, and how even while the country itself may have been neutral, many of its people were not. A Parachute in the Lime Tree is a story of the desperation inherent in both love and war, and how the lines between each are sometimes blurred.
Disclosure: I received A Parachute in the Lime Tree from the author for review.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.