As a history buff and someone who adores historical fiction, I have read some of the most amazing, diverse and exciting historical fiction in recent times. In the last few months alone, I have read three books set during the Nazi reign of terror, each one of them very different and each one of them equally superb. From Christoph Fischer's Ludwika to Ellie Midwood's Standartenfuhrer's Wife and Gruppenfuhrer's Mistress, I have been a happy little camper. Well, add now to that impressive list, The Seven Year Dress by Paulette Mahurin.
Each of these three authors has produced books on the same time period, but each from their own unique perspective and viewpoint. In Ludwika, we saw a young Slavic girl trying to survive amongst the Nazi invaders. In Ellie Midwood's two stories, we followed young Jewess Annalise as she not only married a man high up in the Nazi Intelligence Service but then used that position to spy on the Nazis for the Americans. Fantastic books all of them.
In the Seven Year Dress, we confront the very worst of the Nazi atrocities and Mahurin confronts it head on, through the eyes of Helen, a survivor of the infamous death camp that was Auschwitz.
We first meet Helen, as an old lady, who needs to tell her story to her new boarder. Traveling back in time to Berlin in the mid-1930's we see a young Jewish girl, about to flourish into womanhood, as the Nazi's come to power in Germany and the atrocities against the Jewish people and other "undesirables" begin.
After four years of hiding in an abandoned farmhouse basement, with only her brother Ben for company, the pair is finally arrested, by the dreaded Gestapo and transported to Auschwitz, where somehow Helen manages to stay alive through the hell that was the "Death Camp".
This book will make you cry, it will make you scream at the sheer brutality and inhumanity of the German soldiers but it will also fill you with wonder and hope and faith in the indomitability of the human spirit. Reading this book you will traverse the entire gamut of human emotions - it is that good.
It isn't necessarily an easy read. The violence and hatred are brutal and Mahurin pulls no punches in describing it, but the strength, the humanity and the sheer determination to survive shown by Helen and some of the other inmates will shine through like a beacon.
I can say easily, few books have touched me emotionally as much as this one has. Paulette Mahurin, in my book you are a superstar author who deserves mass publication. Five stars plus for this amazing "must read" story.
As an aside and not taking away from the book in any way, it is fascinating to draw parallels between the behavior of the Nazis in the 1930's and by association, most average German citizens, and the events we see currently happening in one particular part of the world today. We should learn from history, not repeat it. (No need to elucidate on that!)
Thank you for a book that will live long in this reviewer's memory.