50 Books Challenge (26/50)
Between Shades of Gray
“I looked down at the little pink face in the bundle. A newborn. The child had been alive only minutes but was already considered a criminal by the Soviets.”
Sorry for this review being so long, it’s because I’m passionate about this book. I’ve used no spoilers but if you just want a quick reaction skip to the overall.
Can I start by stating clearly BETWEEN SHADES OF GREY IS NOTHING TO DO WITH E.L.JAMES. I thought I would start by saying as that was my initial perception of the book when I first heard it’s title and judging from some of the comments I received whilst reading I was not alone in this opinion. It’s a shame because there isn’t a book less deserving of the connotations of E.L.James.
This is the true story telling the tale of millions of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians during WWII and after. I feel rather ashamed of how ignorant I was on the history behind these countries. WWII is so often obscured behind the image of Hitler and the Nazi’s that you don’t really have a chance to wonder why he sent troupes north and what the Soviet Union really meant. (Based on the history I myself have received at school anyway) I am so glad I read this book because it lead me to researching this side of the war and learning more about it. I feel mortified now of how I was oblivious to these stories. I feels that we’ve cherry picked the history we want to remember or we focus more on one figure for hate than the individual lives of the wronged.
THE GOOD BITS
Not only did this book open my eyes and make me really think; which is always a sign of a fantastic book; it made me feel, and empathise with the story I was being told. The characterisation of this novel is beautiful; you have people who are living their absolute worst nightmare and genuinely fear for their lives, but instead of writing about timid scared group of people or a rebellious unrealistic set of free spirits, you get a realistic group of humans.
The story is primarily about hope but not all the characters are positive, and they aren’t all kind but they are honest. They want to take down the people putting them through this hell but they also want to survive and they have to learn a new balance to this; some characters find this far easier than others. Most of all however what I like was how these characters were able to surprise you at unexpected moments of kindness and defiance and still feel real as if they were doing something anyone would do. I adored the character of Lina’s mother as she felt so strong; she holds people together when they need it, but in some moments you can really see the pain she has to hide herself.
THE BAD BITS
The narrative stance fluctuates occasionally for it’s audience. At times Russian words can be used frequently as descriptives but in others Americanisms such as “Mom” can slip in and it stops the voice you read the story in being as authentic. I’m not really too peeved on this I just want to acknowledge other opinions to remain somewhat fair.
I was blown away from the very first line. I know a lot of people I generally agree with love this book, and I should have expected my socks to be blown right off without being surprised. It’s has the innosent child’s persepective like that of To Kill a Mocking Bird but it also has anger and fear which makes the pace much faster. It’s got a similar feel to that of The Book Thief and I think it’s fans will love this. I loved the writer’s note at the end of this book and her message of how the freedom we experience today comes at the expence of millions of unmarked graves in Siberia because she reasons some wars aren’t about bombing they’re about believing. This book has a very rare quality of hitting you with it’s message full in the face so you can’t avoid it, but always being subtle in the way it delievers it.
I would rate it as;