Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Puffin
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Released: In the UK April 2011

One night fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother and young brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia.An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn’t know if she’ll ever see her father or her friends again. But she refuses to give up hope. Lina hopes for her family.For her country.For her future. For love - first love, with the boy she barely knows but knows she does not want to lose. . ..Will hope keep Lina alive? Set in 1941, Between Shades of Gray is an extraordinary and haunting story based on first-hand family accounts and memories from survivors.

Heartwrenching and full of hope

Between Shades of Gray is a heartwrenching tale of a forgotten part of our world history.

Lina and her family leads an ordinary life in Kaunas, Lithuania. Lina's father teaches at the university, and Lina herself dreams of becoming an artist. She is talented and deeply inspired by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. Lina's whole world is torn apart one night in June 1941, when the NKVD ( an earlier name given to the KGB) storms their apartment and take her, her mother and her brother away. They do not know why they have been arrested, and not where the guards are taking them. Together with a lot of people, they are trown into cattle cars and taken to a labourcamp. Lina's days is soon filled with pain, longing and hard work, but admidst it all new friendsships are born and hope is always glowing.
I heard about this book during the London Book Fair, and decided to buy a copy. Once I started reading, I found it hard to put the book down.

They took me in my nightgown. Thinking back, the signs were there...
(Chapter 1, page 3)

Lina's story is so full of horrendous details, that I sometimes felt it hard to continue reading. The fact that the author based her story on eyewitness accounts, makes it even more heartwrenching. Lina is a strong character, and she never loose hope or the will to live. She struggles to keep her dignity and stay sane.

I felt as if I were riding a pendulum. Just as I would swing into the abyss of hopelessness, the pendulum would swing back with some small goodness.
Chapter 21, page 78)

Lina's mother is also a remarkable woman, a symbol of all the brave women who endured the same struggles as her during Hitler's and Stalin's reign. A lot of the things she said and did, made me cry.

I also liked Lina's brother Jonas, and the author have done a great job describing how he transforms from a young and carefree boy to a more mature boy weighed down by the things he has seen and experienced after he got hauled away from home.

Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worht a pocket watch.
Chapter 7, page 27

There are many other interesting characters in this book too, Andrius being the most interesting of them all. Like Lina I was not always quite sure about what he meant and what he actually was up to. I also like the fact that the author has not portrayed the Soviets as animals. It is easy to demonize someone who does horrible things, but that is not what happens in this book. Lina do, of course, think of the Soviets as horrible people, but still we are lead to think of them as human beings.

As Lina's story progress, we get small glimpses into her past, revealling some of the things that may have lead to her family' being hauled away. Lina's memories is a stark contrast to what she experience during her hard journey away from home. And the reader is, like Lina, left in the dark about many things until the very end of the book.

We have heard countless tale about the persecution of the Jews during WWII, but I have not heard so much about the attrocities commited by the Soviets. This book opened my eyes to a somewhat forgotten chapter in the history of WWII. It was a heartbreaking read and the book will stay with me for a long time.

The title of this book is very well chosen, and the same is the cover. It describes Lina and her feelings in a very touching way.

Do not read this book on the bus or the subway, because you will cry.

Other reviews:
Wondrous Reads
Bibliophile Brouhaha
The Overflowing Library
Forever Young Adult

Official website for the book


Jules (The Great, The Good and The Bad) said...

I'm really looking forward to reading this one!

I think the cover is simply gorgeous :)

Jules x

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Oh no! I want this book sooo bad but I don't like crying. What a dilemma

Brittany said...

This book looks so good! I tend to like sad books so this one is perfect for me :)

I am a new follower! -Brittany

Cell Phone Repair Woodinville said...

Great historical novel depicting a harsh reality of Soviet Europe in the 20th century. I became so engrossed that I forgot that it was fiction-- and began searching for Alina's drawings.

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