Monday 3 September 2012

Marianne Wheelaghan The Blue Suitcase

There are many parallels between this and Potatoes in Spring. And there are some subtle and some less subtle differences.
We have both used material produced by young German women. Marianne Wheelaghan’s “account” covers the years from 1932 to 1947 and mine form 1938 to 1947. Both of our accounts are more intense as we lead up to the outbreak of World War II and both take bigger leaps towards the end. We have both translated from German and have had to fill in the gaps when we couldn’t read the writing. We both feel that we have brought something of a young German woman’s voice that isn’t a 21st century one to what we have written, and that our reader may need to work a little to understand that voice.
Both works add something new to a topic that has been much discussed. Both of us have complemented the fantastic primary resources we have had with much research about the era. Both books end with some hope but neither the reader nor the central character in each know how it will work out. Marianne and I actually do. Our stories are about real people we know well.
The reader learns from The Blue Suitcase what it was like for one German family, who had a Polish-sounding name, and who eventually had to move from their home to the American zone after the war, pushed out first by the Russians and then by occupying Polish families. Potatoes in Spring of course is the story of a ‘Mischling’, of a miraculous escape for some children with severe learning difficulties and of the daily life of some ordinary German girls who had little idea if what was actually happening in their country. Somehow many of the issues are nevertheless similar. And we both have teenage girls behaving … like teenage girls.           
The Blue Suitcase is a mixture of letters and diary entries, some of which are quite long and read like fiction. Potatoes in Spring is a mixture letters and short scenes, some of which are based on written and verbal accounts from the central character. I have possibly strayed a little further away from my primary resources than has Weelaghan but I’ve had to do that partly because otherwise I would have had too many characters and I didn’t have quite as much material in the first place. In spirit, actually, the two books have much in common.      

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