Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Far To Go - Alison Pick

Pavel and Annaliese Bauer and their young son Pepik live in Czechoslovakia, along with Pepik’s nanny Marta, who has no family of her own, but carries on an affair with married man Ernst. The family has Jewish roots, though they themselves have barely embraced this side of their lives thus far. It is 1938, and with Hitler in power, Chamberlain operating a policy of appeasement and handing over the Sudetenland to Germany, everything is about to change for the Bauer’s. Though stubborn at first, and determined to believe that his beloved country will stand firm, Pavel slowly realizes that it is changing beyond all recognition, that his family is in grave danger, and he must take desperate steps to try and safeguard them all, which ultimately leads to the consideration of the option of the Kindertransport for Pepik.

Such a moving and very sad novel of a human story, beautifully written in spare prose, I began to care for the fate of this family who just wanted to carry on with their life as it had been, with Pavel running his factory, Pepik playing with his toy train and soldiers, Marta loving being nanny to this young boy, and so on. Instead Pavel is actually drawn into a new belief in his Jewish religion, whilst Annaliese is trying to separate them from those roots. Although I could imagine all too well what fate might befall them, I felt so drawn in that I was rooting for them, and wanting to believe that nothing terrible would happen to this family. It is Marta’s perspective that we are often given on the family and on events around them; she is a key character, on whose actions and decisions the events turn, and who seriously influences the lives of the Bauer family in so many ways as the story unfolds.

The novel has an interesting structure. Interspersed within the main story are small sections of narrative told by a modern day voice looking into the history of those who fled via Kindertransport; this narrator’s identity and their significance are only revealed towards the end of the novel. This voice causes us as readers to rethink the story we have just read. As well as this, there are several letters, which also appear at intervals throughout the book. This correspondence slowly builds to add to the picture of what has happened to the main characters, and it adds to the sadness and tragedy of senseless separation and unnecessary loss; it is truly heartbreaking to read, and for me these made the sadness hit home most of all. This book explores individual loneliness and family bonds, the ache to protect your loved ones in the face of danger, the danger of trust and risk of betrayal, and the desperate measures that were taken to survive in the face of evil. 

7 comments:

  1. I have wanted to read this book for awhile now. It sounds like the structure is intriguing, indeed! I love that Pick mixes her writing genres. Thanks for the great review!

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  2. hmmm - I think I'd better pick this one up. (and I really, really want a suitcase like the one on the cover.)

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  3. Hi,

    I found your blog on Book Blogs and have come to check it out. I love your design, very pretty!

    I am now following you and would love it if you could check out my own blog at www.storybookloveaffair.blogspot.com

    Thanks!

    Megan.

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  4. Hi JP, thanks for your comment. The structure is interesting in this one.

    Hi Dana, hope you like it if/when you read it.

    Hi Megan, thank you for coming to visit my blog, much appreciated.
    I have visited you blog and am now a follower!

    Lindsay

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  5. walking here with a smile. take care.. have a nice day ~ =D

    Regards,
    http://www.lonelyreload.com (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..

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  6. This looks like a great book club read, thanks for sharing it..i added it to my list.

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  7. Hi Kimba, it's a good, moving read highlighting something not everyone knows about.

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