Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Review - The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller

When I read Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky for the first time this year, I felt a deep chord strike within that left me with a yearning to read more of her works as well as read more about her. As I had stated in previous reviews, it was such a shame that her voice was quickly quieted too soon. I felt that same feeling about another woman author who lived under somewhat similar circumstances. While Nemirovsky died in a concentration camp, Herta Muller left for Germany and, thankfully, wrote the novel The Land of Green Plums. This slim dark novel tells the story of five youths living during Ceausescu's rule in Romania and their lives filled with strife, unjust accusations, lies mixed with half told truths and death. By the end of the novel, only the narrator and her friend, Edgar, are still alive; the others either died from suicide or from natural causes. Strangely enough, this is a book that will lift the spirit, for even though such darkness surrounds the narrator and her friends, they resolve to keep themselves going for the greater good if not just to keep themselves alive long enough to see the next day. The human spirit will persevere when all else is lost or gone.

Muller’s voice is one of stark magick, carrying us to a land where eating green plums can kill and the drinking of blood is necessary. Her sentences are simple and direct while adding to the already imaginative mindset the readers must have in order to comprehend and enjoy this book that won the Nobel Prize in 2009. This book forced me to look at the horror in a far away land, yet it was laid out before me and I could not escape it. Much to my surprise, I did not want to stop reading the book; I wanted to know why the mulberry trees were stolen. I wanted to know why blood drinking was so sacred to the people who lived near and worked in the slaughterhouse. I could actually see the “nut” in Tereza’s armpit, swelling and growing to an unnatural state that could only continue its path by killing its host. Were Lola’s ears truly that green when they found her body hanging in the closet? How did it feel when the narrator received a letter from a friend and the hair was still there? This book is clearly not for the faint of heart, nor is it for one who likes a good “beach read”. This book is for one who wants to cross that safe border and see what lays beyond our own protection and safety. Once I began reading this novel, I knew I only wanted more; more of Muller’s words and more of her background. From such tragedy in history comes a strong voice willing to tell her tales. The plums will never change their colour; who are we to deny such appetizing fruit?

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