CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 7 . . . . December 1, 2000
"Tomorrow when you come home from school," Aunt Vera said one afternoon in late January, "you may help me serve tea to my friends. Change your blouse and brush your hair before you come in." "Yes, Aunt Vera. Many ladies are coming?" asked Marianne. ... "Your frock is darling, Phoebe," Mrs. Stephens said. "Oh, do you like it?...I've found the most wonderful dressmaker. A little Jewess who's set up shop in the Cromwell Road. ...Lost everything to the Nazis. She uses a borrowed sewing machine. Her prices are quite reasonable and she'll copy any design."At the end of Good-bye Marianne, the prequel to Remember Me, Marianne has arrived in London. Her mother had managed to get her included in the first of the "Kindertransport," a scheme whereby Jewish children were rescued from Germany during the six months preceding the Second World War. Marianne is safe, but her mother is still in Berlin, and her father has taken refuge underground somewhere. Marianne has been taken in by an English couple who are sort of trying to be kind, but who don't really know how. Everything she does annoys them, from her mispronunciation of their names to her attempts to find a sponsor willing to bring her parents to Britain to work. Then Marianne's school is evacuated to Wales, and her new billet is, if anything, even worse. Marianne has no desire to become a reincarnation of the deceased beloved daughter of parents not her own! Finally, just as an understanding teacher has arranged that Marianne be resettled once more, her mother turns up. One of Marianne's job-hunting attempts has resulted in an offer of work, and, although travel restrictions for Jews in Germany had become incredibly tight, her mother had managed to get out at the last possible moment before the outbreak of war.
It is hard for us, from our present-day perspective, to realize how difficult life can be, given even a small change in circumstances. The wrong name, the wrong language or religion, war, all these things create barriers to understanding and action, even to existence. Remember Me gives insights into these difficulties while showing the way that a strong spirit can manage to make the best of unhappy situations. It is ironic that the very secrecy that surrounded the destination to which Marianne was evacuated, a device meant to keep the German invaders from locating the students, actually served only to make it almost impossible for one lone German, Marianne's mother, to find her!
I heard echoes of my own childhood in Marianne's internal bargainings with Fate: "They went all the way back without stepping on the cracks of the pavement even once. It couldn't hurt and it might help bring Marianne's parents over to England more quickly!" (p. 59) The evening before she is to start school, "She opened the window, ignoring the sharp December wind that blew in. Slowly, she counted backwards from one hundred. She had to do it without shivering, or start again. She did it the first time. Everything will be all right now. She closed the window gratefully." (p.40) In Marianne, Watts has created a character who is both lovable and believable; it is a privilege to have made her acquaintance.
Mary Thomas, who works in two elementary school in Winnipeg, MB, says that the two "Marianne" novels will make interesting additions to the Holocaust unit that is done most years.
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