A Parachute in the Lime Tree by Annemarie Neary
|A Parachute in the Lime Tree by Annemarie Neary|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: An unlikely story of unrequited love in a neutral Ireland while the bombs are falling on Belfast and Dublin.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: March 2012|
|Publisher: The History Press Ireland|
|External links: Author's website|
I'm surprised that there should be such things as lime trees in Ireland, but that is really the only surprising thing about Neary's tale of love and betrayal during the Second World War.
Don't take that the wrong way: it isn't a negative comment at all. The fact that Parachute is a nice, easy, comfortable read, about some horrible, uneasy, shocking times is in many ways an accomplishment. She doesn't shy away from the horrific backdrop of the war and the rise of Nazism – indeed that is her whole premise: what the Nazis did to ordinary people who were basically just trying to live a life.
Oskar Müller was one such. Of course he joined the Hitler Youth. One did. But it didn't keep him from loving his Jewish girlfriend-next-door… not initially, at least.
Elsa Frankel, the 17-year-old piano player, expected a little more of her blond-blue-eyed-Arian, but as the times moved on, he got conscripted into the Luftwaffe and eventually her family made a bolt for Amsterdam and, alone, she made it as far as supposedly neutral Eire. Eventually, she even finds another piano to play.
Müller, coming to his senses (or losing them?), decides to seek her out. On the way back from lamp-lighting the bombing raid on Belfast, he jumps. He ends up dangling from a parachute in a lime tree in the backwater of Dunkerin.
Kitty lives in the house that owns the tree. She's the 'dead spit of Hedy Lamarr and so sharp she'd cut herself.' So why is she doomed to trudge out her days in the back of beyond looking after her grieving mother and not going to any dances.
Charlie is a medical student, a friend to Kitty's brother, the both of them studying in Dublin. He has his eye on Kitty, but then stumbles across Elsa and falls. He has no idea of any connection between them… but then, neither do they.
All of these people are living in an uneasy place though. Ireland wasn't part of the war. They called it the Emergency. And there were some who thought that anything that was bad for England was good for them; and others who might have had a different take on what would happen if Germany won the war.
No-one feels safe. Though some still feel bored. Neither of these are enough to stop people falling in love, and love never chooses wisely.
Neary's work is a delightful read. She plays language like an instrument, lilting Irish brogue singing out in a way that never slips over into parody, and a personification of the place and the weather that has a poet's touch: and so the dying of him smelt of damp earth and spit and geraniums ; the funeral was on an edgy summer's day: not quite secure in its sunshine, not wholly irreverent to the Henessys' trouble.
She also has the confidence to break her lyrical mode with a turnaround to the singer in church For the love of God Effie she hissed at her would you ever shut up.
Deft, is the word.
Subtle, light, and yet somehow reaching beyond a surface frivolity that would have rendered the book chick lit. She credits the reader with knowing the backdrop, with no need to labour it, she rams it home with a garden tea party that has neighbours and one-time-friends sitting with their backs to the garden fence… then the shutters come down… and then they're gone. And all of their things too.
This isn't a book about the war. It's a book about some people, about what they did in response to their better natures, and why sometimes that isn't enough, or isn't in time. It's also a simple tale of survival and a reaching for a kind of happiness.
A gentle, whimsical rendition, that wrung barely a tear but was emotionally satisfying all the same.
If this book appeals then we think that you might enjoy The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Parachute in the Lime Tree by Annemarie Neary at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Parachute in the Lime Tree by Annemarie Neary at Amazon.com.
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