Sunday, 14 August 2016

THE SEVEN YEAR DRESS by Paulette Mahurin

3 out of 5 stars

WW2 drama/Auschwitz

On Amazon UK HERE
On Goodreads HERE

Reviewed by me as a member of Rosie Amber's Review Team

I always head straight for books set in World War 2, and this book has so many good reviews that I couldn't wait to start it.  I'm afraid I was a little disappointed by it, though there is much to commend, too.

In the present day, student Myra rents a room from Helen Stein; after a while, Helen reveals all that she suffered as a Jewish girl living in Berlin during the war and, later, in Auschwitz.  I thought the parts in the concentration camp seemed the best researched, treated with sensitivity, not sensationalised, and would certainly serve as an education for anyone who doesn't know about the atrocities commited by the SS.   The build up of anti-semitic feeling in Germany is portrayed well, as is the bond Helen formed with a friend in Auschwitz.  Earlier on, though, there are parts that seem unlikely, at best.

Helen's friend Max is homosexual.  As a thirteen year old, he talks about this to Helen.  I doubt very much whether a boy of that age from a traditional family background in early 1930s Europe would have even acknowledged such sexual preferences to himself, let alone talked freely about them.  There were other attitudes and phrases that I felt came from a more modern era.  I also doubted that Max would have had access, later, to the high level German campaign secrets that he revealed to Ben and Helen.  Then there is the bear rooting about in the 'trash cans' outside the farm buildings in Brandenburg.  There have not been wild bears in Germany for nearly 200 years (I looked it up). 

The other thing I wasn't keen on was the sexually orientated passages, which I thought were tacky; it's possible to write about a girl becoming a woman, and longing for love, etc, without it reading as though it's aimed to titillate.

There is a fair bit of historical fact woven into the novel, some convincingly, other parts clumsily.  I liked the epilogue, I thought it was a nicely written, suitably poignant ending.  I can see from the Amazon sites that this novel has been received very well by many, and I wouldn't not recommend it, but for me it was just okay.


  1. Hmm, what a shame; sounds a good plot but... Nicely balanced review though, Terry.

    1. Amazed that someone thought it was 'best historical fiction' when it was so factually incorrect, Judith! And the sex bits in it were awful. Several other reviewers thought so too; I looked on Amazon to see if it was just me. As one said, the story of how a young girl masturbated her way through the holocaust. Inappropriate in the extreme!