Title: The Seven Year Dress
Author: Paulette Mahurin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Early Girl Enterprises, LLC
Release Date: May 8th, 2016
Source: Received from the author in exchange for my honest review
One of the darkest times in human history was the insane design and execution to rid the world of Jews and “undesirables.” At the hands of the powerful evil madman Adolf Hitler, families were ripped apart and millions were slaughtered. Persecution, torture, devastation, and enduring the unthinkable remained for those who lived. This is the story of one woman who lived to tell her story. This is a narrative of how a young beautiful teenager, Helen Stein, and her family were torn asunder, ultimately bringing her to Auschwitz. It was there she suffered heinous indignity at the hands of the SS. It was also there, in that death camp, she encountered compassion, selfless acts of kindness, and friendship. Written by the award-winning, best-selling author of His Name Was Ben, comes a story of the resilience of the human spirit that will leave you thinking about Helen Stein and The Seven Year Dress for years to come after the last page is shut.
You know Paulette Mahurin donates the proceeds of all her books to the Canine Adoption and Rescue League- so far this year they’ve freed 49 dogs from kill shelters. She’s also the kind of author who digs into the research thoroughly, and that makes the historic facts in this book feel reliable.
Nobody can argue that the holocaust wasn’t horrific (except those poxy trolls who insist it didn’t actually happen, but I don’t count them as people). But it’s a different layer of detail altogether in this story- the work being done inside Auschwitz, the last-minute abandoning of the survivors, the forced death marches, and also the bonds of community formed among the prisoners.
Unfortunately, the weakness of the book is that I never actually cared about Helen enough for it to feel personal. I don’t know if that was the formal, obviously-translated-to-English feel of the dialogue (which fits with the setting of Helen recounting her memories to an American, but felt formal and stinted to me), the fact that there’s more of Helen talking about being upset than feeling it through her actions, the time spent setting up Helen as a character vs rushed action of her suffering, or if I’m just a bit of a cold fish.
I’m obviously biased toward the author, and having visited Dachau myself when I was 16, I am strongly in support of fact-based narratives that cover that period from a non-American perspective. So I’m recommending it to people who enjoys historical fiction about WWII-era German Jews and survival stories.