“A Book About Something Immediate And Real” by Valerie Hedgeholder
In LiveJasmine, Valerie Helder (Daughter of former German President Christian W.), has written a novel that explores the experiences of a modern-day girl growing up in the Nazi-era concentration camp during World War II. The book is an excellent historical and political research guide, as it delves into the life of a concentration camp inmate. It is also filled with humor and a touch of romance. I especially loved the ending, which left me laughing so hard I nearly quit reading it! But then again, if you are a fan of Helder’s short story collection Valerie, which you should be, then this book will not give you anything new or exciting to read, but it will surely make you remember the times you were young, while living under the thumb of a cruel and oppressive regime.
As I mentioned before, LiveJasmine tells the story of Helder growing up during World War II. Her mother is an artist who lives in a small village and sells paintings. Her father, a German soldier, is very sickly and doesn’t return home for two years. While her mother is away tending to her sick father, Valerie is too young to go to school. Her younger sister, Flora, takes care of her.
One summer, Valerie overhears her grandmother talking about the war and her experience in a concentration camp. She decides she wants to join the women in the camp, but her father says that she cannot – he knows that she would have no problem if she had to, since it is part of her job to look after his sick mother. Valerie’s grandmother proves to be a good support, and she even cooks for the women and cleans their dorm rooms. By the end of the summer, she is deeply moved by her time in the camp.
After the war, Valerie returns to college, but her parents are not so keen. The war did not seem to have any effect on her either, even though her grades suffered because she couldn’t concentrate as well. Then one day while she is taking some classes, she overhears her roommate chatting with her friend in the background. Her heart begins to open, and she realizes that she wants to join the concentration camp her friend is referring to.
With her cute personality and great grades, Valerie should have had no trouble getting in. However, her father does not want her to go – or let her go – before she has proven herself. Even if her parents don’t want her to go, Valerie persists, and soon enough gets accepted. At the concentration camp, her experience is so different from the rest of the students. She finds herself surrounded by people who are there because they want to change themselves and make a positive change in the world, and not just survive.
Although concentration camp life is hard, Valerie makes it through just fine. She comes to realize that although her parents’ wishes were for her to do something else with her life, it was her own decision to attend the concentration camp. Her parents’ sacrifice makes her stronger in more ways than one. Through the reading and writing assignments, Valerie discovers how much she really loves to read, and why she wants to pursue a career in writing. As she makes her way through the book, she comes to realize that although her life is still in turmoil, it could have been much worse – or better – if she had only pursued her dream.