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Reviewed by Deborah Lloyd for Readers' Favorite
In 1909, Elsa Schuller was sixteen years old, living in the Lower East Side of New York City with her German immigrant family. Four years previously, her parents, Tobias and Nina, her older sister, Sonja, and baby brother, Anton, crossed the ocean to find a better life in America. But life was hard and tragedy struck the family. Elsa was unable to go to school, as she and Sonja had to work in a factory to help with necessary expenses. Elsa found a way to learn the English language. This helped her to find a job in Lindenhurst, Long Island; she was a maid and a German translator for the father, an attorney with several German clients. Elsa also assisted Dafne, the adolescent daughter. In the novel Love of Finished Years, written by Gregory Erich Phillips, the history of German immigrants is beautifully illustrated. When America was drawn into World War II, German immigrants were viewed with suspicion – and Elsa’s life changed dramatically, yet again.
The author has skillfully portrayed the plight of immigrants during a most difficult time in American history. He has included characters from both the upper class of people, who had the means to hire servants, and the serving class themselves. By fully developing characters from each class, the reader learns the societal norms of the day. His depiction of the factory workers, as well as the suffragettes and union representatives, is also well-written. The story is engaging and captivating. Gregory Erich Phillips’ fictional work, Love of Finished Years, is an excellent read for anyone interested in learning more about the early twentieth century.