Far to Go

Far to Go - Alison Pick DEFINITELY NO SPOILERS!!!
This has been difficult to achieve.


ETA: I admit defeat. I only want to give this book three stars, and I do not quite now why. The book was perfectly executed. It kept me reading. The characters were well rounded. The writing was fine. Some nice similes were included, but they were not excessive! But somerthing didn't work for me. It felt like fiction. The book was just plain kind of ordinary........ Sorry for being so unclear! I simply cannot give this and On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood the same number of stars. I cannot do it.

Maybe the lack of clarity added to arouse our curiosity annoyed me a teeny bit. Maybe I wanted it spelled out more clearly exactly who were the author's grandparents. I THINK I know, but I cannot say without giving a spoiler. I am not sure. The author wanted to write a book of fiction, and that is what she did. I think I would have preferred that she wrote it as a memoir and clarified which facts were missing. The author doesn't fill the reader in on some later personal events b/c she wishes to respect the privacy of certain individuals. But now I am confronted with the whole idea that this could be all wrong, just total fiction, a nice story that we put in place of the missing facts. Hmmm, I don't like that. Is this what is bothering me?! I am not sure. Sometimes we cannot know the past, no matter how much we want to understand it. Rather than making up stories, isn't it better to accept that we cannot know?

My husband is laughing at me as he goes out the door to work. He asked me what I was typing. He knows this has been bothering me since I finished the book yesterday. I didn't want to give this four stars, and I didn't know why. All I know is that I feel relieved having changed it to three stars. Perhaps I have resolved what was bothering me!

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Really this book is a perfect example of what historical fiction can achieve. The novel is based on what is known about the author's grandparents. What is known are the dates of birth, dates and places of death. It is a known fact that one son of the Bauer family escaped death in an extermination camp through Kindertransport from Czechoslovakia to Britain. What is known is who are are the surviving offspring. What is not known are the emotions of these characters. What were the driving forces behind their choices. We will never really know for sure, but the author has made these people so real and so believable that what happens here in these pages does seem true. I appreciate that the author clearly states what she has guessed, what is fabulated. She in fact points out ohter possible scenarios. She has chosen one explanation for the given family tree. She has taken one possibility and brought it to life. The people live and breathe.

The story is about a mother, father, their son and a nanny. They live in Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, when it is overtaken by the Nazis. They flee to Prague, before it too was invaded. It is also clearly stated in the book description that the son will be one of those children of Jewish heritage that were transported to safety by means of the Kindertransport. What this book does so wonderfully is show how different characters behaved in very different ways to the same given circulmstances. I was amazed at how well the author could portray people of different sensibilitues equally well. On Kristallnacht the adults are shocked by what they see, but even a child who has not seen the actual event feels the atmosphere in the house. The story shows you haow each character responds to the same event.

The following night at supper, nobody spoke. Pepik (the son) was free to mass his knedliky into mountain ranges as he desired. He seemed to think he had done something to provoke the silence at the table and began guessing what he was suppose to apologise for, "I'm sorry for playing with my food like a baby."

The Bauers kept eating.

"I'm sorry I wet my bed last night."

Anneliese looked at Marta with raised eyebrows, and Marta nodded to show this was true.
(page 111)

Another point that should be mentioned is that the novel switched time period and narrative form at given intervals. All of a sudden you get someone speaking in the first person and at a later point in time. I was confused by this. I didn't know who was speaking, but rather than annoying me it aroused my curiosity. By the end of the novel you understand. I felt that this served a definite purpose. Just as some children of the Kindertransport must learn to live not knowing of their past, we the reader must learn to accept that we must wait to understand. Both we and the child want to understand the whole story. This was not merely a gimmick but in fact an important message.

Read this book to learn about the Kindertransport, to learn about what happened in Sudetenland and how secular Jews felt and reacted when they were confronted with hatred. The beauty of this book is that we people all behave so differently and you glimpse how this can be. I am giving this book four stars because the people felt all very different and yet all very real. I cannot give it five, because in a real memoir you get added little details that are lacking here. (Please see the afjustment above!)