Wait for Me by Caroline Leech Book Review

Image result for wait for me cover

 Synopsis: It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

My Review: Wait for Me wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. For a story set in WW2 there is very little on the actual war itself. It’s not an action packed story. It never really leaves the setting of the small Scottish town.

The character’s story lines and Lorna’s relationships and friendships were well written. These threads are what carried the story as the actual setting of WW2 was very thin, you could almost take it out the story. Although the setting was underdeveloped it did add to the story. In some ways however this felt more realistic. In such a remote place the war was not like it was in a city such as London.

The story is very bitter sweet, with the combination of romance and war. Probably a little too sweet for what the world was truly like in 1945.

As for the two main characters I found them interesting. Lorna’s struggle of loyalty between her family and her heart was really well shown. Paul’s character and background story were well laid out. I’ve seen a few reviews mentioning the odd few German stereotypes that crept into the story. To be truly honest I didn’t really notice them and as someone who spends a great deal of time in Germany I notice them very quickly. Caroline Leech didn’t show any partiality towards any nationality through the book regardless of what side they were on. This left the reader to make their own judgement on the characters for who they were and not what passport they carried.

Onto the romance. One thing that I will forever complain about in YA books is the falls-in-love-in-chapter-one trope. Did this happen here? Yes and no. At first it appeared that Wait for Me was going down that well beaten track like all YAs before it. But, it suddenly decided to veer off course. The romance actually goes at a more reasonable pace which makes it actually possible to read without wanting to grab the characters by the shoulders and shake them till they see that you can’t be soulmates within 2 chapters (yes I really do have a problem with this trope, in case you couldn’t already tell).

So now that the actual story part of the review is over, on to the more controversial side.

One main factor that many have spoken about is the fact the Holocaust and concentration/work camps are completely and utterly avoided throughout the whole book. When I first read Wait for Me this did not even cross my mind as it did not seem to fit into the setting of the book. However, I did start thinking about it more after reading some comments.

There are quite a few points to be made in this argument. One point is that this is a tiny village in Scotland where Lorna simply would not know about the camps. During the Second World War the British public did not know  what was happening in the camps to the Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, travellers and more. On a side note the British government knew what was happening yet they refused to let refugees in apart from a few children. So had this been a story set purely with characters from this small town I would not expect this to be mentioned and it would in fact be historically inaccurate for her to know of the Final Solution.

Paul’s knowledge on this fact is another story. In 1942 the Final Solution truly began. This was of course not public knowledge, however many knew that the concentration camps were far worse than just work camps. The full extent of the horror would not have been common knowledge. However those who lived close to concentration camps would have had a much better picture of exactly what was going on. When looking at location as a factor in whether or not a person would know about the Holocaust, Paul was near two camps; Sachsenburg and Buchenwald. Sachsenburg was only open in the late 30s and was used to detain Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused to follow Hitler’s dictatorship by joining the army and using the hitlergruß (the Nazi salute). Although some were executed and conditions would have been terrible it was not a death-camp. Buchenwald on the other hand was far worse. It was a camp with many different types of groups including Jews. Although not a death-camp thousands died. (This is all what I read from Wikipedia and a few other sites, if there’s anything I have gotten wrong or you want me to add please let me know!).

When looking at something as horrifying as the Holocaust it is so important that it does not get buried and forgotten about. It should warn us of what one person can do to another and that such atrocities must never occur again. Obviously this is a highly sensitive topic and as someone who is not Jewish I don’t have a right to say a lot of things on this subject. However, one thing I can say is that what happened was one of the worst events in 20th century history and it’s victims should be remembered.

Now bringing the above back to the book. Should Caroline Leech have addressed the issue and used it to help serve as a warning to events in the future following a similar course? I don’t know. Is the book okay by not addressing the holocaust because it did not affect the characters and could well have not been known to the characters? I simply don’t know.

Overall, each person needs to decide what they think on that particular factor in the book.

When I first read the book I enjoyed it. It really is just a romance that was taken from real life experience of POWs that did stay in Scotland and married those who they’d been working for. When looking at the more controversial side to it, it’s difficult to decide where to stand. At the moment I personally think that Leech most likely did not think to include it in her book as she did not see how they were connected. The fact that Paul lived a two hour drive from Buchenwald (according to Google Maps however it could’ve been a different time back in the 1940s) is probably something she did not know. It’s a contemporary novel that has been set in a world where there were too many grey areas and atrocities. But this book only focuses on the area in a small Scottish town where a mention of what was happening in Europe simply did not come up.

When looking at the controversy surrounding this book it begs the question; does every book set in World War Two have to mention the Holocaust and is Wait for Me simply being singled out?

I’ll end with this. The Holocaust is something that should never be forgotten as it can show us where society went wrong and how we can prevent a similar future. The victims should not be forgotten and what the survivors endured should not be swept under the rug. Books should use the power they have to help with this. However, not every book can have these thoughts and lessons put in them and Wait for Me may just be one of those books.

Social issues are not something I usually touch on in such a detailed way especially one like this. Therefore if there is something you think I have missed, have worded badly or simply gotten wrong do let me know. After all, there’s no way for people to understand issues such as this if no one teaches them.


 

The story writing, the characters and the book itself

4/5 Stars

The controversial issues surrounding it

I can’t say


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