‘Nothing Can Make Them Stumble’ is a remarkable story of intrigue, survival and faith. It has its roots in the Black Forest in Germany, moves to the Middle East and continues in the Barossa Valley in Australia. In a time of social, economic and spiritual turmoil, a small group of people left their homeland of Germany to pioneer a new Christian community in Palestine. They did not stumble when faced with the hardship of the pioneering years, the set back of two world wars and their expulsion from Palestine. In the Barossa Valley they fashioned a new life in peace, security and economic stability.
Review by Hazel Barker
The title Nothing Can Make Them Stumble is a quote from Ps 119:165, and depicts the unshakable trust in God by the author’s grandparents. The family tree drawn up at the beginning clarifies the relationship between characters. The book is not merely a family history; it also contains snippets of the modern history of Palestine and the Barossa Valley.
The rift between the Carmelite Monastery and the colony’s Lutheran Mission Centre on Mt Carmel stimulated my interest. The matter was settled when the German Chancellor, Count Bismark and the Pope in Rome intervened.
Another interesting fact was the White Paper of 1939, limiting Jewish migration to 15,000 per year. It made me want to visit the museum near Haifa to learn more of the Jewish history of the time. I’d been unaware that during World War Two of German Nationals in Palestine were exchanged for Jews in German concentration camps.
The Balflour Declaration of 1917 with its subsequent revision in 1922 was also of great interest to me, and the first-hand account of the American advance into Germany and the family’s faith in Divine Providence stirred me to the core.
The history of German settlement in the Barossa Valley drew me further into the story, because I met my husband, Colin there, while on a tour of the vineyards. God’s ways are indeed wonderful.
Nothing Can Make Them Stumble has been thoroughly researched and edited. The book is well-documented with footnotes and photos. The writing is easy to follow and, at times, similes such as ‘gardens were like outstretched arms bidding a warm embrace to all who came to visit them’ add colour to the writing.
I encourage all those who wish to broaden their outlook to read the story of the Stoll/Meinel family and learn about the history of places they lived in during the last one and a half centuries.
Monthly Archives: November 2014
Nothing can make them stumble : the story of the Stoll/Meinel family by Herb Meinel, South Australia, 2013
Rebecca Oakes is just thirteen when her mother passes away, and she is left to care for her ageing father. However, it is not only family that stands in the way of Rebecca’s dream.
She will have to fight the Australian society – a society where it is difficult for a woman to get an education, where women can’t own property, have no vote and no voice. Will she be thwarted by a man who is determined to stand in her way?
Review by Hazel Barker
Rebecca’s Dream is a sequel to Suzannah’s Gold and opens in the autumn of 1873. Her mother has just died and thirteen-year-old Rebecca is left to look after her ageing father, who suffers from depression and dementia. She dreams of studying to be a teacher and entering a convent but her desires are thwarted when she takes on the burdens of others and cares for them.
The story rambles on with births and deaths until the evocative scene of John’s attack of typhoid and her sister Mary’s helplessness in Chapter 4. Rebecca’s Aunt Mary Anne and her Uncle Bill prove a source of comfort to her. Her friend Sarah gives her the moral support she needs, and Sister Catherine’s words of encouragement help Rebecca to keep her faith in God. Sarah’s brother Herbert, however, is a constant source of annoyance to Mary.
Despite all drawbacks, Rebecca displays astonishing strength of spirit and selflessness. She also shows righteous anger over the restriction of women especially in regard to education and the laws of inheritance. Her Catholic religion and her views on women’s rights cause dissention within her family but the budding love between Sarah and William bring a touch of romance to the otherwise sorrowful tale.
Although the misuse of the word ‘laying’ on page 234 and elsewhere in the book rob the novel of much of its true worth, the story is a good read.
Rebecca’s Dream depicts the religious bigotry and injustice towards women during the early days of Australian settlement. The author brilliantly captures the fire scene in Chapter 4. Chapter 17 in which the rape occurs is eloquently described too, and the final pages add suspense when family secrets hover like shadows over the story.