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Dianne Ascroft – Hitler and Mars Bars

December 11, 2008

151. Hitler and Mars Bars by Dianne Ascroft (2008)

Length: 338 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Started: 30 November 2008
Finished: 03 December 2008

Welcome to today’s stop on Dianne Ascroft’s blog tour! First, I’d like to say how much I appreciate Ms. Ascroft sending me a copy of her book to review, especially all the way from Ireland!

Plus, be sure to keep an eye out for my interview with Dianne, coming soon!

After World War II
German boy in Ireland
must find a family.

Want to read it for yourself? Buy Hitler and Mars Bars at Amazon!

Summary: Erich is a four-year-old German boy living in a children’s home towards the end of World War II. His mother comes to see him and his younger brother, Hans, on the rare occasions that she can get away from work, but after a frightful night of bombing, his mother stops appearing altogether. Post-war Germany was a place of terrible food shortages and displaced children, and Erich and Hans become some of the hundreds of German children taken to Ireland and placed with foster families under the auspices of Project Shamrock. Many of these children were only fostered temporarily, until their families could be located and conditions improved, but although Erich clings to the idea of his mother coming to take him home, he must eventually face the reality of a more permanent stay in Ireland. Shuttled between foster families, Erich struggles to fit in with his schoolmates, win the affection and approval of the grown-ups in his life, and find a place – and a family – in which he can finally belong.

Review: Most World History courses seem to stop at the end of WWII, and my Recent History courses were always Recent U.S. History. (I prefer to get my history through fiction, anyhow.) In any event, Hitler and Mars Bars was an interesting book that opened my eyes to a slice of history that I never knew existed. Post-war Europe is not something that I’d ever considered in great detail, and this book gave an interesting insight into the effects of the war on the lives of everyday children. Operation Shamrock was – from what I can tell – an extremely well-meaning and reasonably successful program, and this book certainly tugs at the heartstrings more than once, as Erich (and other children) try to find in Ireland what they’d lost in Germany.

Erich is a well-drawn narrator, with a wholly believable voice. However, I thought this book missed an opportunity by limiting itself just to Erich’s point of view. At various places throughout the book, I found myself wanting to know about other people’s perceptions – the foster parents, the other foster children, the Red Cross workers, etc. Because I’d never heard of Operation Shamrock before this book, I wanted to see more facets of it, and more detail than could be provided from Erich’s limited perspective. Hitler and Mars Bars tells Erich’s story vividly and with great empathy; I just think a little branching out would have made it a more robust read. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of WWII-era historical fiction will find this a quick and interesting read with a new perspective on the war and its aftermath.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links:
Dianne Ascroft’s web page
Dianne Ascroft’s blog

Other Reviews: Diary of an Eccentric, Wendi’s Book Corner
Did I miss your review? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: “Wake up, Erich,” his mother said softly.

Vocab:

  • p. 70: “Behind their walls and ornate iron gates lacy fascia boards framed doorways and palm trees dotted lawns and gardens, lending an air of gentility to them.” – any relatively broad, flat, horizontal surface, as the outer edge of a cornice, a stringcourse, etc.
    .
  • p. 96: “Gipsy bounded after them across the haggard; Patch followed at a safe distance.” – a hay-yard, from the Old Norse “hey-garthr”.
    .
  • p. 300: “Pale quoins and window borders contrasted with the darker stone of the building.” – Any of the stones used in forming such an exterior angle of a masonry wall, often being of large size and dressed or arranged so as to form a decorative contrast with the adjoining walls.
    .
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2008 11:43 am

    Great review! I really enjoy WWII fiction, so I was glad to have the chance to read and review this one. Thanks for linking to my review. I’ve added your link to mine as well.

  2. December 30, 2008 10:11 am

    Would it be okay to post a link to this review on our WWII reading challenge blog? It would be located on the book review page.

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