Paulette Mahurin is one of my favourite authors. Her books are always well-researched and well-written. The Seven Year Dress is no exception. Helen Stein was just a teenager when Hitler came to power in Berlin. Her family was Jewish. Her best friend, Max, was homosexual. Before long both would have their families torn apart and their lives in extreme danger. This is Helen’s story.
Myra is a young nursing student at UCLA looking to rent a room near the hospital. She is struggling with her Jewishness. She moves in with Helen. One night, upset by her experience in the emergency room where a gunshot patient died, Helen offers her the opportunity to talk. The tables turn, and, over a fresh pot of tea, Helen begins the story of her terrifying experiences in Germany when her family became separated — years she and her brother spent in hiding, unspeakable indignities she suffered after she was captured, special friendships she made amidst the terror in Auschwitz, all making up the story of the patch of fabric she has kept from the dress she wore for seven years.
This is not an easy book to read although it is superbly written and beautifully woven together. There is a great deal of information about the holocaust and we may think that we have heard it all but it is an amazing revelation to have a personal story, albeit fictionalized, told in the first person. Helen shares not only the dehumanizing elements of the concentration camp experience but the tender kindnesses she observed during her time there. This is a timeless story of real events that should never be forgotten. It won’t take you long to read because you won’t be able to put it down. You can read the introduction and a teaser here. * * * * *
Just a side note: All of the proceeds from Paulette’s books goes to rescuing dogs from kill shelters in California. Don’t buy them because of that, though, buy them because they’re incredibly well-written and illuminating. Other books by her that might interest you include The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap and To Live Out Loud.