A Corner of my Heart by Mark Seaman: a heart-warming story of love and survival under the cruellest conditions – a must-read!
At just seven weeks old, Mary is given up for adoption after her mother, Ruth, cannot provide adequate care and support for her. Twenty-eight years later, Mary begins to question the circumstances of her birth. Why did her mother give her away? Was it because of a lack of love? Curious, Mary decides to contact Ruth to discover the truth. But what she does not anticipate are the severe conditions that Ruth has endured throughout her life, from the inhuman nature of Birkenau’s concentration camp to the injustice inflicted upon her by her employer after the war. Can Ruth and Mary ever rebuild their relationship as mother and daughter or has too much time passed?
The plot is based on the real historical event of the Holocaust. Consequently, it is difficult for the reader to discern whether this book is fiction or not. It is so well written that, at times, it does seem to be non-fiction, particularly when Ruth’s time at Birkenau is described. The narration of her imprisonment at the concentration camp is very detailed, from the living conditions of the huts to the brutal and inhuman violence inflicted by the Nazis upon Jewish prisoners. I was grimacing with disgust at how any human being could be so outlandishly cruel to others. It is evident from Ruth’s narrative that what she endured at Birkenau has mentally scarred her; her experiences permeate her thoughts and life after the camp’s liberation.
The alternating perspectives with each chapter is an ingenious way to tell the story. Although Ruth and Mary are involved in a situation that affects them both, they each perceive and respond to the predicament differently. This provides the reader with a greater understanding of humans and how despite being in similar circumstances, comprehension varies between individuals.
Mr Taylor is a truly despicable character, whose smugness will make the reader want to leap into the book and punch him. His cruelness towards Ruth and deceit towards his family will generate passionate hatred within you, making you truly hope he will suffer his just desserts. Sister Claire is another character that you will despise for her cold-hearted demeanour and bitterness towards the young girls who desperately need help from the nuns.
Whilst your heart will melt with sympathy for Ruth because of her awful experiences, you also cannot help but admire her; she has such a strength of will to survive what the Nazis inflict upon her and does not give up hope of liberation, despite her family and friends’ deaths. Mary’s decision to keep her baby, despite the fact that the father, Gerry, acts as the novel’s manipulative sex parasite, will warrant respect from you, simultaneously prompting Seaman’s reader to loathe Gerry. His selfishness and short-sightedness are the main causes of this disgust, as well as shirking his parental responsibility towards Mary’s child.
Seaman’s ending is a suitable one because it completes the full circle that is the structure of the book: the reader is told the histories of Mary and Ruth and the novel ends with the two women about to embark on meeting each other and explaining their lives. Overall, A Corner of my Heart is an uplifting novel about a mother, daughter and undying love surviving the harshest of circumstances, a must-read for this month.