Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

between shades of grayLina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages 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, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Published 22nd March 2011

344 pages

Must Read – 5 stars

Read from 5th to 7th April

So this took me a few days to write because of how much this book affected me. Afterwards I was really really upset for a multitude of reasons. I don’t cry at books normally, but I tend to cry when I know that real people went through it and that there wasn’t anything I could do.

I’m a strong advocate of action and any charity projects I’ve taken part in have always been based around people. To know that during this time there was so little love between humans is the most heart-breaking thing to me.

This story is incredible and if you haven’t read it, then stop here, pick it up off of your shelf, order it at the library, jump onto amazon. Do what you have to do to obtain a copy, read the back but don’t try reading too much into it. Then finally, open the cover, and start reading. I would tell you to stop but I’m not convinced that you can.

I don’t often read about the facist/allies side of the war. I have consumed so much of it through school, books, discussions, and games that I appreciate how horrific it is but I can’t do it anymore. This year I read a journal article about how accounting was involved and since then I’ve really struggled when reading war books. I am graduating as an accountant in 2 months and my mind is just not in the place to read that. I am currently wanting to read the Book Thief and Code Name Verity, but picking them up has been hard.

However, I will always read anything I can find about the other aspects of WWII and anything about WWI. I just think that it’s more beneficial to gain a better understanding of this time period than have a complete focus on just the Nazi’s.

I have been consuming a lot of historical fiction lately and it’s made me pick up a few non-fiction that I’m really looking forward to. They’re massive so I’m a little apprehensive but still I want to get to them.

Ok, so I’ll start the review properly now.

I really enjoyed the writing in this, it was incredibly well done and thought out. It focussed on the present situation but also reminded the reader that the people had a life before this entire travesty. Following Lena was really hard, she was at such a promising age and her life was just ripped from her. She was old enough to be angry and to know that it was wrong, but too young to have the emotional capacity to deal with the situation.

Having your family ripped away from you is so soul destroying, and to know that it could keep happening while you are being broken and torn apart in other ways, it is just unimaginable how people coped.

I did not really like the romance element in this and I don’t think you were meant to; it was just a crutch that Lina needed and for that I can understand.

I hated the bald man for so many reasons that I don’t even want to go into it. Ruta Sepety’s seems to put a hateful character in each of her stories that I’m dealing with it. I only have one of her books left and I’m going to be sad when that’s done because I love her work.

This book is greater than the sum of its parts. It all creates something new and different and thought provoking. It gives you a better understanding of a situation that is so poorly recorded and taught.

I can’t tell how I feel about the ending; I am sort of struggling with how I wish the ending to be. The authors note was where I got emotional because the reality came crashing down and I just retreated. Compared to Salt to the Sea, this definitely packs more of a punch and for that reason I like this book better. I still think people should read both but I would certainly recommend Between Shades of Gray.

That’s all folks!

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