Friday, October 7, 2011

Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (2011)
During World War II the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania and many people there were removed and sent to prisons or labor camps. In Ruta Sepetys' novel, she imagines a teenage girl whose family has been separated, her father sent to prison and she, her mother, and little brother sent to a camp in Siberia. Lina is 15 and dreams of becoming an artist, but those dreams are all but forgotten when she must struggle just to stay alive in the arctic with only bread rations to eat and people dying around her every day.

I've read so much concentration camp and labor camp literature that I generally no longer go near. (The other recent exception was The Book Thief) But when I read a review of this book on a YA site, I was compelled by the lesser-known plight of Lithuanians during the war.

I listened to the audiobook, and at the end the author spoke about why she wrote the book, which was very interesting - I don't know if this part is included in the paper version of the book but it was a great addition to the novel. The narrator has a good reading voice, but very saccharine and a little over-emotional. Perhaps this was to make up for the bleak subject matter - little about this story was uplifting - but it was distracting at times. 

It was a well-crafted story with many moments of tension, as well as flashbacks to happier, more carefree times. There were moments of hope in the story, and reminders that there are good people everywhere, and sometimes their goodness is just hard to see. I liked Lina, who was the sort of person you just know will come through ok even if she doesn't believe it herself. I'm glad I took the time to spend with her in this book.

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