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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far to Go
This is the heartbreaking story of a Jewish family in 1938 Czechoslavakia. There is Pavel Bauer, his wife Anneliese and their young son, Pepik. Also, there is Marta, Pepik's governess, who has no home or family to speak of, outside of the Bauer's. The story is also told by the narrator, as someone looking for Pepik as an old man; although it is not until the end of the...
Published on 10 Sept. 2011 by S Riaz

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Changing the course of life
Your religion is wrong now; even though you do not practice you are guilty by some remote association. The only answer to this witch hunt is to change and then hope you are passed by. But for Pavel, Annelise Bauer and their son Pepik this is not possible.

It is 1939 and we are taken to Czechoslovakia where the Nazi threat is no longer becoming a threat it is...
Published on 17 Sept. 2011 by Jo D'Arcy


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far to Go, 10 Sept. 2011
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Far to Go (Hardcover)
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This is the heartbreaking story of a Jewish family in 1938 Czechoslavakia. There is Pavel Bauer, his wife Anneliese and their young son, Pepik. Also, there is Marta, Pepik's governess, who has no home or family to speak of, outside of the Bauer's. The story is also told by the narrator, as someone looking for Pepik as an old man; although it is not until the end of the novel that we discover how the narrator and Pepik are connected.

As the war approaches, the Bauer's life begins to change. Pavel can no longer run his factory and Pepik is forced to face the back wall of his classroom, segregated and bullied. The anti semitism is corrosive and seeps into all aspects of the life in the small town the Bauer's live in. Anneliese wants to leave, although Pavel is keen that they stay. You can feel Pavel's disbelief about what is happening, his unwillingness to accept the way his life is changing, his sudden awareness of his Jewishness. His factory, his feeling of confidence in himself, is slowly stripped away, which is hard to read about. Eventually, the decision is made for Pepik to leave on the Kindertransport, with the hope that he will be safe until they can hopefully be reunited.

This was a very moving book. The author takes pains to show what people are capable of in such situations, which bring out the worst and the best of humanity. Ernst, who works with Pavel, and who sees an opportunity for himself. Marta, who both loves the Bauer's and yet feels jealous and abandoned. Pepik, the small and innocent child, so loved and adored. It must have been the hardest decision to send your child alone into a new world, when the unselfish urge to protect your child is stronger than the desperate need to be with them. This was an excellent novel and really thought provoking. It would be a great read for a book group, with lots to discuss and talk about and I am glad that I read it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving and thrilling, 25 Aug. 2011
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Far to Go (Hardcover)
A wealthy Jewish family in late 1930s Czechoslovakia is always going to be an emotional story, but this Booker-nominated story avoids crushing sentimentality by offering a complex and thrilling story of the family's efforts to secure safety, particularly for their six year old son. Alison Pick makes some interesting creative choices that add more layers to this story. Some will surprise the reader but the overall impact is a wonderfully moving story with wholly believable characters.

The first of these creative choices can be a little alienating to begin with. The reader is faced with a series of short chapters that don't immediately gel together. In fact the reader has to wait a long time to work out how the whole literary conceit comes together. The one-page prologue is a first person narrative about a train. Is this the "kindertransport" train we are told about on the cover or a child's toy?

Next comes a letter dated 1939 but which has notes that are clearly more recent, as if part of some modern day academic record of the communication. Then we return to the first person narrative, which seems to be set again in the recent past. Who is talking, we are not told, but someone old is dying in a hospital bed. By now, we are some ten pages in before the real bulk of the third person narrative story begins, but Pick has one more layer of confusion to add. We hear about an attack on a Jewish man in Austria before we learn that this is a story being related by Pavel Bauer, a wealthy secular Jew living in the Sudetenland, part of post Great War Czechoslovakia, to Marta the nanny of his young boy on the eve of German occupation. A warning of things to come. But the Bauers are not practising Jews and there is an optimism that this will protect them from the worst of Hitler's anti-Semitism.

The letter and first person narrative interludes continue sparsely throughout the book, but they are always brief and while it takes time to realise their importance, they don't interfere greatly with the pathos of the main story and the final pay off is well worth it. For some, this literary device might be distancing, but in looking at the aftermath of these events, I found it added a further level of emotional depth.

The second creative choice concerns the main story where Pick has chosen to focus events, less from the perspective of the Jewish family and their young son, but more from the point of view of their gentile Nanny, Marta. She's a beautifully written character. She's innocent to the point of naivety and complex. She makes bad decisions and is never wholly good nor bad. If the set up is all sounding a bit "Sound of Music", Marta is certainly no Julie Andrews. She's wholly believable, not least for this complexity of character.

We follow the family as they flee from Sudetenland to the short term safety of Prague. But of course, history relates that the annexation of the Sudetenland didn't deter Hitler's progress for long and there is almost a thriller sense to the story as the family seek ways out to safety and in particular for the safety of young Pepik, their six year old son. Should they put him on one of the kindertransport trains to safety or will the whole family escape? Or will none of them get out? It's impossible not to care for their fate in general and for sweet little Pepik in particular.

The book also interestingly explores the impact of the Nazi threat on the Bauer family's attitude to their Jewish heritage. Husband, Pavel, becomes more inspired by his faith while wife, Anneliese, seeks to further distance herself from all things Jewish.

One slight frustration was that, while the use of Czech terms, particularly relating to food here, adds a degree of authenticity to the story, I was longing to know what it was that they were eating. I have an irrational aversion to footnotes in fiction, but an appended glossary of Czech terms would have been interesting here.

This is an original, and sometimes surprising, take on the plight of Jews in the lead up to the Second World War. The lightness of the writing style brings out the personal stories and the pace reads almost like a thriller. Ultimately Pick keeps a few surprises up her sleeve until the later stages of this moving story.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heartbreaking but powerful story., 1 May 2011
By 
Paula Mc (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Far to Go (Hardcover)
'Far to Go' is the story of the Bauer family, Pavel, Anneliese and their six year old son Pepik, along with Pepik's governess, Marta, they live a quiet life in Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia. Their lives are changed forever with the arrival of Adolf Hitler and his government in 1939, the Bauer family, who are Jewish but chose not to practice their religion believe they will be safe because of this. Pavel is outraged by the fall of the Sudetenland and the fall of the government but he still believes his family will be safe but as the situation becomes more frightening and Pavel's own views changing, he realises he must flee with this family while he still can but its too late for Pavel and Anneliese but not too late for their beloved Pepik, his parents and governess must be prepared to let him go on the Kindertransport, to go to Great Britain where he will be safe until he can return home.

I was very lucky to be able to read 'Far to Go' before its release on the 12th May 2011 and I recommend it highly.

The story is told from the point of view of Marta, Pepik's beloved governess, who stands by the Bauer family for different reasons but ultimately she stays because she loves the family. Marta's point of view is full of emotion, there is sadness, happiness, strength and love, emotions that are shown so well that you are immersed in the story from the first page. Marta is a well written and realistic character, she is a young girl, who at times is confused and makes wrong decisions.

Pavel and Anneliese are also well written characters, their fear as people and parents are heartbreaking to read, their frustrations and sadness, what they are facing, what they sacrifice to ensure their son's safety. Pepik is a lovely character, you can visualise a sweet, gentle little boy who does not understand the harshness of the world but quickly learns, which was sad to read because you want him to be happy.

The story interweaves between the past and the future, the aftermath of the Kindertransport and what it meant for so many children, some who were lucky enough to see their parents again and the children who did not see them again.

I enjoyed 'Far to Go', it was a powerful story and you can see the love and commitment that went into telling the story by Alison Pick, a story which is part of her own family history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spare but Strong, 4 Aug. 2011
By 
Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Far to Go (Hardcover)
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One of the longlisted novels for the Booker Prize 2011, Far to Go is certainly attracting a lot of attention from readers and all with good reason - it's a refreshing look at a period of history which should never grow stale in our minds no matter how many years go by.

The main focus of the novel is on the Bauers, a young, secular Jewish family living in Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia which has been invaded by Germany. Pavel, a wealthy factory owner, Anneliese, his stunning, self obsessed wife and their six year old son, Pepik flee to Prague hoping to leave the ominous shadow of the Nazis behind them. Marta, their dutiful Gentile governess, accompanies them, not so much out of duty but because they're all she's got - she doesn't hold Jews in the highest regard but, like a lot of ordinary Europeans caught up in the war, she probably wouldn't be able to tell you why. Eventually, all hopes are lost apart from those pinned on little Pepik who is sent on the Kinderstransport to the UK, hoping to be reunited with his family and Marta after the war.

Despite having studied WWII as part of my History O Level course (many, many moons ago..) my knowledge has remained rather sketchy until recently when I have had the good fortune to read some excellent fiction set during this period. Reading about the Bauers and their efforts (including bribery) to get Pepik out of Czechoslovakia will enlighten readers about the Kinderstransport and the heartache of separation albeit for a greater good, or what they thought was a brighter future...

As well as educating the reader, this novel also achieves a more balanced view of events as the narrator who divulges the Bauers' fate and who also holds their fate in her hands, is a Gentile with no political aspirations. Marta, the governess, is more concerned with looking after Pepik and protecting him from the growing anti-semitic feeling which is gripping Sudetenland. She has little in common with her conniving adulterous lover, Ernst, who hopes to gain financially from Pavel's downfall. Still, she's no saint either and self-preservation is at the forefront of everyone's mind be they Jew or Gentile, Czech or German.

What I love about Far to Go is its simplicity and unpretentiousness - the characters are flawed, real flesh and blood creations who find themselves in the most surreal of situations and whilst they aren't always the most likeable they are all the more credible as a result. Yes, it's a story which will affect you emotionally but it doesn't dwell on sentimentality and presents the truth in simple prose, in black and white. The one minor difficulty I did have was getting into the rhythm of the story as several narrative strands are introduced very quickly, almost on top of each other - the story of the Bauers set in 1939, a contemporary storyline whose narrator remains a mystery until later and also letters written by Jewish parents to the children they sent to the UK. However, this is just a minor quibble for me and it quickly becomes a compelling, coherent read.

Alison Pick has carved a fresh, fictional work out of the past experiences of her Czech grandparents who fled to Canada following Hitler's invasion of their native country. It's a fitting tribute to all those who did not survive and those children who were never reunited with their parents.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far to Go, 19 July 2011
By 
Moonlit (scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Far to Go (Hardcover)
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I've just returned from a holiday in the Czech Republic where I visited the memorial sites of Lidice (a Czech village which was destroyed by the Nazis in retaliation for the assassination of Heydrich - all the men from the age of 15 were executed, children mainly sent to Chelmno where they were gassed and the women sent to Ravensbruck), St Cyril's crypt (where the paratroopers involved in Heyrich's assassination died) and Terezin. Terezin was a garrison town built in the 1800's and during the occupation of Czechoslovakia in WW2 it was used as a ghetto for the Jews. From there many were sent to their death in Auschwitz and other concentration camps and mainly died there because of the terrible living conditions. While I was there I was privileged to hear a talk by a survivor of Terezin and Auschwitz.

Like the Jewish family (the Bauers) in this book, he came from an assimilated family. He emphasised that he, like many other Jews in Czechoslovakia at that time, saw himself as Czech. His family background was very comfortable, again like the Bauers. He spoke very movingly of his humiliation of being made to wear the yellow star and of how different it made him feel.

This then is the context in which I read Far to Go which is a very moving, well written book. It tells the story of a Czech Jewish family and what happens to them. Having missed the opportunity to leave, they have to make the decision to send their son away on a Kindertransport.

Each individual story of what happened to a family during the Holocaust is heartrending and this is no exception. Well written and compelling. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far to go, 2 Sept. 2011
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This review is from: Far to Go (Hardcover)
Far to Go

Alison Pick's novel weaves in the complex relationships that evolve between the local population in Sudetenland as it becomes part of Hitler's Reich. The main storyline is the fate of a Jewish family, their Czech help and the German foreman of their textile factory.

Despite the father's reluctance, they finally relocate to Prague but find themselves trapped there following the Nazi occupation. Their son is saved by a hard-won place on a Winton train but his salvation does not have a magical ending. The final twist at the end evokes the emotional journey that remained with these children into their adult lives.

There are frequent references to historical events and Czech, German and Hebrew words are used in italics. It's a pity that some are grammatically incorrect and the name of a historic figure is mis-spelt.

The author's Jewish grandparents escaped from Czechoslovakia and settled in Canada choosing to raise their family as Christians. Her father discovered his roots on a tour of the cemetery in Prague when the guide mentioned that his family name Jewish.

"Far to go" was one of 13 titles selected for the 2011 Man Booker prize for fiction longlist, won this year's Canadian Jewish book award and has been optioned by a Canadian film company to be adapted for the screen next year.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and well-written, 2 April 2013
By 
Marand - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Far to Go (Hardcover)
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This beautifully written book follows the story of a wealthy secular Jewish family in Czechoslovakia just as the Germans are about to take over the Sudetenland. Right from the outset you know that things will not go well but this does not in any way detract from the narrative. The events that are happening in Czechslovakia are seen through the lives of the Bauer family and, indirectly, their relatives but speak to wider experiences. Their nanny, Marta, is the primary narrator although at intervals another narrator appears. The story also moves along through the device of letters contemporaneous with the events described.

It's a thought-provoking read. You can understand why, even though initially wealthy families like the Bauers could have left, they stayed thinking that their assimilation into Czech society would somehow protect them from the worst of the anti-semitism. You can see why they just could not have imagined what was to happen until it was too late to do anything. The book also shows how people's attitudes can be changed so easily by events around them and how they feel they can take advantage of the situation. It is good at conveying the pernicious nature of the increasing anti-semitism the Jewish community faced, the change in friends and employees, even children. It isn't clear sometimes whether some people are committed anti-semites or just behave in certain ways to improve their own position either financially or socially. That kind of ambivalence runs through the book in various ways. On occasion, a few almost thrown away words deftly convey the situation. As an example, at one point Marta scolds a young boy for attacking the Bauers' son Pepik, her charge. The response from the child when Marta warns him that she will tell his mother is "My mother will be pleased". Those few words scope out the changing attitude of Czech society.

Although this is a heart-breaking story, it is not told in a sentimental way which is to its advantage. The characters are very human, even if not always likeable (for example, I disliked Anneliese Bauer at the outset but my attitude softened later). The author builds the tension well and as the book progresses you can feel the net tightening around the family and the Jewish population of Czechoslovakia & the rest of Europe.

The identity of the alternate narrator is resolved at the end and raises another thread to the story. The author has, in writing the book, drawn on the fate of members of her own family and there is an interesting, but brief, consideration of memory and the reliability of memory.

A recommended read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Changing the course of life, 17 Sept. 2011
By 
Jo D'Arcy (Portsmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Far to Go (Hardcover)
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Your religion is wrong now; even though you do not practice you are guilty by some remote association. The only answer to this witch hunt is to change and then hope you are passed by. But for Pavel, Annelise Bauer and their son Pepik this is not possible.

It is 1939 and we are taken to Czechoslovakia where the Nazi threat is no longer becoming a threat it is becoming reality. The Bauers would be okay but they are Jews, non practising ones but still Jews. They have a lovely existence and nothing is a problem for them before the Nazi Threat, their son is looked after well by his governess/nanny, Marta who tells us the story of the Bauers and how they looked for ways of avoiding the inevitable. Now the Bauers are in danger, they try anything to stop the march to unknown. Changing religion and hoping that friends and family will be able to help them escape. As the story progress we see the lengths they go to and reach to be able to escape.

The final choice is for them to save their son, through the Kindertransport and send him to safety. What a choice for any parent to make, sending their child away to another unknown country and family knowing that they will ultimately face death.

This is a book of many emotions, and I admit to struggling with it. It was inevitable what was going to happen to the adults and I think this inevitably was also known to them as well and they slowly throughout the book resigned themselves to this fact. The emotion is raw when Pepik is sent away on the train with hundreds of other children. This emotion is jarred somewhat by another storyline throughout not narrated by Marta but from someone unknown, this really did not make sense until at least two thirds of the way through the book, who this narration was from and I am not sure if it had its purpose being in this book. I had worked out the relationship developing between some of the other characters and how this was going to come out but the additional narration somewhat spoilt that for me.

This is a fascinating novel and from a historical point of view introduced me to something I knew very little about but not necessarily had connected it with other events of World War Two. It has been researched thoroughly well and on many occasions I did wonder if I was reading something autobiographical not a fictionalised account at all as it was that strong in its storytelling. However I was not completely addicted to the book and I cannot begin to tell you why, I struggled but stuck with it and I know by doing that I have not missed out on something I think probably lots of people should read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far to Go ..., 19 July 2011
By 
Petra "book addict!!!" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Far to Go (Hardcover)
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Far to go by Alison Pick was an excellent read which I enjoyed immensely, though heartbreaking that so much hatred was put upon innocent people because of their religion. What made this worse it did not matter that the people that were punished did not practice Judaism, all they needed was to have one grandparent that was born a Jew they were then treated by Hitler's followers so horrible and later on many were sent to death camps. I found this book too be a very good book which explained a lot about the lives of the Jewish people and opened to me so many things that I did not know about their faith.
The book is based on the true history of the Kindertransport, this actually began in 1938 after the terrible night of Kristallnacht. When so many of the Jews realised how much hatred there was for all Jews a group of highly ranked Jewish leaders asked Neville Chamberlain personally to provide a place of safety to their children. Neville Chamberlain then asked the British Government who agreed to provide homes for these children. It took over nine months to remove the children from the evil in Germany, Austria etc. Kindertransport ended in September 1939 when Britain announced war on Germany when Germany invaded Poland. Thanks to this over 10,000 Jewish children were saved and brought to Great Britain to a life of safety but unfortunately not all the children got a happy life with new parents. The majority of the children never seen their parents after the war as a lot of their parents died in the death camps which Hitler had created for the Jews.
Alison Pick the author of Far to Go knew nothing about her Jewish blood until on her Grandmother's death in 2000 when her father decided too look into their family history. Through Alison's father researching his family's history he found out that his parents were actually born Jewish and had escaped from Czechoslovakia and emigrated to Canada around 1938 - 1939, as many Jews did at this time. Her father's parents never said at any time that they were actually born Jewish, maybe they blamed the fact that they were Jewish that they had to leave their own place of birth or were they afraid to admit they were Jewish even to themselves. Whatever their reason was, they kept that to themselves and did not tell their own family, you could say it died with them.
When Alison learned from her father the actual history of his parents she did her own research and through this research this give her the idea for this fantastic book. Though the book is based on her family's history it is not their own true story, the characters are mainly fiction.
We first hear of Hitler's and his follower cruelty against those that were born into the Jewish faith at the beginning of the book when Pavel Bauer is telling his son's nanny the abuse Misha Bauer suffered from nazi followers and supporters. Marta was a nice girl but could not believe that this was actually happening in her own country which she loved. At the start of the book she is very naive, though one thing is sure she loves the child that she is nanny too and that child is Pepik who is the son of Pavel and his wife Annelise. Her love for Pepik is so strong, she is more a mother to him than his own mother is and this is clear through reading the book. We as readers also meet Pavel's wife Anneliese who is a harder character than Pavel and has a selfish streak.
Though the couple were born Jewish they did not practice the faith, but that did not matter to Hitler and his followers. The book later goes on to tell about how Pavel lost his factory and wealth because of his religion as Hitler made it illegal that Jews could have a good job or hold any wealth. It goes onto tell what life was like for the Jews under this horrible regime and how they really could not trust anyone who was not Jewish. The family realised what was happening throughout the regions surrounding though it broke their hearts and that their love for their child was so strong that they had to put faith in the sympathy of strangers and hand over their most precious child to people they have never met or even knew anything about. Through reading about this family I learned so much more about this time of history as so many children were taken out of Germany and the countries that Hitler had taken over and this was the only way the Jewish parents could think of to save the lives of their own children and I suppose also to keep the Jewish faith alive. There are quite a few twists and turns which brings the couple to this decision and I do not want to ruin the book for other readers, these twists and turns kept me glued to the book and it was really well written and kept me guessing to the end.
I found this book very interesting and recommend it to anyone who likes to read about history or really likes a good read. This is a book which I found to be full off facts and hid none of the sufferings which the Jews of this era suffered. It is a book which I will not forget.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An ambitious novel that bites off more than it can chew, 18 Aug. 2011
By 
Sally Zigmond (Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Far to Go (Hardcover)
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I will not summarise the plot as most other reviewers have already done so. Suffice for me to say that it shines a spotlight on a Czech family who are forced to consider what it is to be Jewish. Watching Pavel and his wife argue, drift and turn a blind eye and slide into an apathy as the Nazi threat overwhelms them, I I found myself shouting at them, 'Get out! Get out now!' But of course, I have the benefit of hindsight. They didn't. And that was their tragedy.

I found Maria the most realistic character. Her confusion between what she hears about the Jews and what she observes around her is compelling. Not only does she fail to act, her personal and confused emotions lead her to an act of betrayal that must have haunted her all her short life.

Although the Kindertransport scheme is at the heart of this novel, it seems not to belong to the first section. Pepik's story is harrowing and I grieved for this bewildered child. However, I found this section too rushed. The narrator and her personal role in the story is also a confusing distraction (because it seemed tacked on) and the whole novel failed to gel convincingly. I felt there were two novels struggling to be heard. This is why, although I found this an intelligent and thoughtful read, I was unable to give it five stars.
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Far to Go by Alison Pick (Hardcover - 12 May 2011)
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