Thursday, 15 March 2012

Between Shades of Grey: Ruta Sepetys (Lithuania)

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.

There are many books that detail the horror of what happened in WW2, but very few about the effect that the formation of the Soviet Union had on the inhabitants of the former (now independent again) Baltic states. This is one of those books that tells the story of what happened to the inhabitants of Lithuania.

It details the story of a 15 year old Lithuanian girl, Lina, and her family, whose ordinary life is shattered the day that she is dragged, together with her family from her home by the Soviet Secret Police, and transported hundreds of miles by train, to the icy wastes of Siberia to live and work in a Soviet labour camp. As with the Jewish concentration camps, these ordinary people, thrown together by fate, form strong friendships and bonds that help them to survive against incredible odds. Throughout her ordeal, Lina, who is an artist, finds the opportunity to draw whenever she can, using whatever materials she can find, in order to record the people and the places that she encounters. This is no doubt one of the things that helps her to keep her sanity and survive.    

This is a tale of hardship and deprivation, of  sadness and of man's hostily towards his fellow man (and of course woman), but most of all it is a book about survival and a book about friendship and resilence and of how the human spirit ultimately always wins through.

The author is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee who lives in the US. She wanted to tell this story, the story of her ancestors, for some of it is based on the first hand accounts of survivors, so that more would be aware of the history of these Baltic states and what their people went through.

It would be misleading to say that this was a book that I enjoyed, for it is hard to enjoy tales of others suffering, but it is a book from which I learnt a lot, and is therefore a book that I would strongly recommend.

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