Friday, 23 September 2016

Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
First published in America by the Penguin Group in 2011.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Barbed Wire
I registered my copy of this book at Bookcrossing

Where to buy this book:
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How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.
Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they 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, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?'

The first journey Dave and I made together was to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and while there we visited the former NKVD headquarters so I already had some idea of the horrific suffering inflicted on the Lithuanian people during Stalin's years of power. Reading Between Shades Of Gray reminded of that visit and also provided a vivid recounting of those people's experiences during the 1940s and 1950s. On one hand this book is an easy read. It was originally intended for a young adult audience so the prose is relatively simple and moves along at a swift pace. On the other hand, the stark writing and unadorned, matter-of-fact tone serve to intensify what Lina and her family are forced to endure. I was frequently emotionally moved by the deportees' strength of mind, their courage in such overwhelming conditions and their incredible resilience.

Sepetys has based this fictional tale on many first-hand accounts by survivors so, while it is not actually a true story, the events described are essentially what really happened. To realise that this experience of vicious exile was common to thousands and thousands of people, many of whom never returned, is sobering and I still don't understand how, as humans, we can continually be so cruel to each other. I see the same hateful paranoia today directed towards 'other' peoples. It would be great to read Between Shades Of Gray solely as historical fiction and be relieved that this kind of violent discrimination no longer occurs in our world. Perhaps one day that might be possible?

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Ruta Sepetys / Young adult books / Books from America

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