Monday, 15 August 2011

Review: between shades of gray by Ruta Sepetys

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously - and at great risk - documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart

Hardcover, 344 pages
Published March 22nd 2011 by Philomel Books

Primary language: English
Original title:  Between Shades of Gray
Genre:  Historical Fiction,  Young Adult, War, Cultural/Russia, History WII

Terri's Review 
When I was in school, I took a class titled American Cultural History.  I took this class not because I wanted to, but because the courses that I did want to take were full.  This ended up being my favorite class because instead of textbooks I was assigned 15+ novels to read.  What does that have to do with this book?  Nothing really if you look at it literally; this novel takes place in Lithuania and details the plight of the Lithuanian people during WII while the course I took revolved around America.  The reason why this course popped in to my mind as I sat down to review this book is that both peaked my interest in historical events through written literature.  While textbooks can be dry and boring, history told through the eyes of a character living a story makes you feel closer to what happened and more importantly, makes you want to learn more.

I will be honest and say that I did not know a whole lot about what occurred in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the 1940's.  My interest in WII up to this point has mainly focused on events surrounding the Jewish people and the holocaust.  This book taught me about Stalin and his regime beyond the standard chapter in a history book that we are taught in school and has made me want to learn more about what occurred in the Baltic region during this time. 

I found this novel to be very easy to read despite the heavy content and was able to read it in one day.  The characters were all strongly written and their journey eloquently detailed.  I was able to smell the smells, feel the pain and suffering and celebrate the happy moments along with Lina.  This was a story of strength and love in a time of hatred and oppression.  The story was told through the eyes of a 15 year old girl who you are rooting for from the very beginning. 

I really enjoyed this book and I have a feeling that this will just be the first of many on this topic.  As it is written in the author's notes at the back of the book...."Please research it.  Tell someone".  I think I will.....

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