As a small child, Erich and his brother Hans live at the Goldschmidthaus in Germany while their mother works at a nearby train station during World War II. Following the war, the children from Goldschmidthaus are taken to Ireland as a part of Operation Shamrock, a Red Cross initiative that removed children from post-war Germany and fostered them with Irish families. Upon their arrival in Ireland, Erich and Hans are separated and sent to different foster families. The first family for each child does not work out, and the two find themselves reunited when they are fostered by the Elliotts, who they call Daddy Davy and Aunt Elsie. The two spend several happy years there. However, they are forced to leave when the Elliotts are no longer able to care for them. They remain together for a time, but the situation is less than ideal. They are once again separated- Hans will go to live with his friend Bobby, and Erich returns to the Elliotts. Once again, though, it is not meant to last, and Erich is sent away again to try to make his way in a world that does not seem to want him.
I think I’ve mentioned before in talking about this book that I had no knowledge of Operation Shamrock. United States history classes tend to gloss over the international relief and humanitarian efforts in the post-war period. As it states on the back cover, Hitler and Mars Bars by Dianne Ascroft does not attempt to tell the whole story of Operation Shamrock. But for me, it was a refreshing look at something about which I had no prior knowledge. But Operation Shamrock is only the background. At it’s heart, this is Erich’s story. You can really feel his confusion about why his mother doesn’t come for him, and his desperate desire to feel loved. Throughout the story, Erich struggles to make friends with other boys, and has quite a bit of jealousy where his brother is concerned. This is due in large part to that need to feel loved, I think. Boys tease, and he has a hard time dealing with that. Girls and adults are more compassionate, and he needs to feel that compassion.
Throughout the book, I kept hoping it would lead to a happy ending. I didn’t get the happy ending I was exactly looking for, but I did like the way the book ended- with hope. Even though Erich didn’t get exactly what he was looking for and what he wanted, he began to realize that there were ways to get some of the things he wanted and needed.
One thing I particularly appreciated was the way in which Erich’s voice came across. I’ve read books told from the point of view of a child before- and the child would always come across as whiny, annoying, and bratty. Erich did not come across this way to me. Erich maintained a child’s voice, but it enhanced the story rather than detracted from it.
I very much hope Ms. Ascroft will continue to write, and I look forward to reading more by her in the future. I definitely recommend this to anyone interested in historical fiction or in Irish fiction.
Coming Friday: A guest post by author Dianne Ascroft! Please be sure to stop by to hear what she has to say!
Rating: 4 stars
Publisher, ISBN: Trafford Publishing, 1425145914