Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer

Book Review written by Cori Van Housen

Robert Elmer’s tale of WW11 occupied Denmark grabs you from the start with engaging characters and explosive action on the streets of Copenhagen. German forces, meanwhile, plan to round up the country’s Jewish citizens for deportation, and worse. Elmer’s protagonist, the unassuming clergyman, Steffan Peterson, is likeable and humorous. He enjoys a sheltered, bookish life until he meets Hanne Abramsen, a young and determined Jewish nurse with loose connections to the Resistance. An unlikely friendship develops, awakening Steffan’s slumbering spirit, leading him out of the comfortable security of his church and into grave danger, but also deeper, more vibrant faith.

Elmer weaves historical fact seamlessly into his storyline, making this book not only a great read, but interesting and informative. I had never heard of the camp for which the book was named: Czechoslovakia’s Terezin. Nor had I knowledge of conditions in Denmark during the time of the Reich. It was heartening to know that Danish clergy stood against the Nazi agenda, not simply bowing to it as sometimes happened elsewhere. But Elmer neither preaches nor teaches in the usual sense. Instead, Steffan navigates the razor’s edge between obedience to God and obedience to existing (German) authorities. Not until reading the afterword do you realize how much of the story is firmly rooted in actual events, in actual places.
Elmer accomplishes the feat of communicating the terror of war without gratuitous violence or obscenity. The book is well constructed and evenly paced. Or so you think, until half way through you realize it has you by the collar and you are running with it. A sometimes tense, but thoroughly satisfying read.
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