It is 1941 and after a visit home, Oskar , a young Luftwaffe airman, discovers that the girl he loves, Elsa Frankel, is living in Ireland. Her family is gone from the house next door to his parent's home, rounded up and taken away because they are Jews. Elsa was sent to Ireland on a Kindertransport in 1939 when she was 17.
Oskar decides to betray his country by parachuting into Ireland to find Elsa, loving her far more than he loves the German Reich. And the opportunity to do this daring jump finally comes his way in April 1941 when the Luftwaffe is sent to bomb Belfast. Without any idea of where he is or where to find Elsa in Ireland, Oskar makes his jump and lands in a lime tree in Kitty Hennessy's garden in Dunkerin.
But though she had actually spent time in Belfast, Elsa is now living with a kind Jewish family, the Abrahamsons, in Dublin. Elsa is never really able to feel at home in Ireland, despite the kindness she is shown. She is a gifted piano player who loves Chopin, and it is her talent that first attracts Charlie Byrne, a medical student, to her and who almost immediately falls in love with her.
Meanwhile, Oskar, who was injured when his parachute lands in the lime tree, is discovered by Kitty while foraging for food in her kitchen. Kitty lives a lonely, dull life caring for her grieving mother and a Luftwaffe soldier in the kitchen offers just the excitement she has been longing for and, naturally, Kitty falls in love with Oskar, or perhaps, she really falls in love with the danger he represents.
So, Oskar loves Elsa. Kitty loves Oskar, Charlie loves Elsa, Elsa loves...Well, you will have to read the book to find the answer to that. But A Parachute in the Lime Tree is much much more than a nice love story with all kinds of twists and turns. It is also a story about young people caught up in a war they didn't want and the consequences of their choices made because of that war. For instance, Oskar is racked with guilt over his failure to do anything that might have helped Elsa and her family earlier in Germany. For herself, Elsa must live with never really knowing what happened to her parents after they were sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp.
In this debut novel, Annemarie Neary has written a wartime adventure/love story as poignant and exciting as any I have read so far. The focus of the novel alternates among the four main characters, revealing their thoughts and feelings in their individual past and present, and ultimately tying their stories together in a nice, but not very pat ending.
I have said before, there are not many WW2 stories set in Ireland. Partly because this was the time of The Emergency, when the Republic of Ireland was neutral in WW2 having declared itself to be in a state of emergency. Only Northern Ireland, which was not very prepared for war, participated as part of the United Kingdom. A Parachute in the Lime Tree, therefore, is a very nice addition to Irish novels set in WW2 and one I can highly recommend.
This book is recommended for readers 14+
This book was sent to me by the author
This is book 1 of my European Reading Challenge hosted by Rose City Reader
This is book 1 of my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry