Thursday 5 December 2019

Review: Fiction: A Parachute in the Lime Tree by Annemarie Neary

The History PressIreland, €14.99
Available withfree P&P or bycalling 091 709350

During the World War Two, Ireland avoided most of the destruction that decimated Europe. There were, however, at least two very real emergencies in the period known as the Emergency: the bombings in 1941 that left more than 900 dead in Belfast and, some weeks later, a further 28 in Dublin's North Strand.

These atrocities provide the context for the web of sweet -- and sometimes bittersweet -- love stories that A Parachute in the Lime Tree weaves.

Annemarie Neary's debut novel begins when a German leaps from a plane somewhere over the Free State just before Belfast is bombed.

When this blonde stranger detaches himself from his parachute that has become tangled in a lime tree, an unsettled slip of a red-haired colleen, Kitty, hangs her hopes of romance on him.

There is little to preoccupy her in remote Dunkerin, and she dreams of excitement. She is the spitting image of film star Hedy Lamarr, and almost as flighty.

Unbeknownst to Kitty, another love story is unfolding. The handsome German, Oskar, didn't fling himself into the lime tree to uphold the fatherland. He is in hot pursuit of Elsa, his Jewish sweetheart, who had been bundled off to Ireland for her safety. Where exactly, he doesn't know.

As he begins his search for Elsa, Kitty harbours him, first in Dunkerin, then in Dublin, and has her innocent way with him, with life-changing consequences for her.

Everything changes for Oskar too, when his comrades bomb the North Strand. His hopes of avoiding official attention are dashed now that the Germans have lost Irish sympathy. Internment -- or worse -- is inevitable.

As Kitty pines and Oskar searches Dublin for Elsa, fortune plays dice with her. Elsa is unaware that the sweetheart of her innocent youth has risked his life for her.

She finds congenial lodgings in Dublin's Jewish quarter and before long, an Irish admirer, Charlie, a naïve, bumbling medical student, when she plays the piano at the Feis Ceoil, where she puts the locals in the shade.

Charlie manages to date Elsa, but the course of love does not run smoothly. Injured while helping the victims of the North Strand bombing, he loses touch with her.

Will he succeed in winning her over or will Oskar emerge from the shadows and claim her?

Not all wartime love stories are resolved with fairytale neatness, but this has an 'ever after' that is happy enough. The ending fast-forwards to 1999, when we learn the fate of the mature Germans and the naïve Irish in this empathetic Emergency romance.

Mary Shine Thompson

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