Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Book #6 Far To Go by Alison Pick

Far To Go

Far To Go tells the story of the Bauer family, there is a connection to the true life story of the family of Alison Pick who escaped Czechoslovakia for Canada during the war. In this, it bears some similarity to Anne Michaels Fugitive Pieces which I read at the end of last year.

In Far To Go, the Jewish Bauer family find their lives both metaphorically and literally under threat as German aggression begins to absorb Czechoslovakia into its borders. Pavel Bauer who has lived a secular life does not really believe it will happen to him, but begins to identify with and explore his Jewish heritage when it comes under threat. Initially, he is unwilling to part with his precious son Pepik but as the threat of the Holocaust marches closer, he begins to consider to try placing his son on the Kindertransport, the initiative of a British man who saved the lives of many Jewish children. 

Far To Go was longlisted last year for the Man Booker Prize last year but didn't make it to the shortlist and though it is not a bad book and is eminently readable, it is flawed and its potential is wasted I can see why it wasn't shortlisted.

The Kindertransport is a really different angle to take on the stories of the Second World War and would make an involving book. Unfortunately this isn't that book, the bulk of this book concerns Pepik's nanny Martha, her loyalty or in my opinion lack thereof to the Bauer family. It also covers the well trod ground of the encroaching fear and sudden oppression of Jewish communities in Nazi Occupied Europe.

Both Pepik and first cousin Tomas make it out of Europe on the Kindertransport but little to nothing is made of that experience and what that was like for children. In fact the first page of the book informs us that Tomas reached a family in the UK, he is never referred to in the novel again, and Pepik's experience is completely truncated. It just seems like a totally missed chance. Towards the end of the book it becomes all about main character Lisa's research, and how the story was pieced together as best she could from her research. In fact though the title Far To Go implies the journey and the front cover is of a child with a suitcase the novel is barely about the Kindertransport at all. And thats the disappointment. I think I would like to read a novel that is actually about that experience.

I also disliked the manner in which Martha is painted as a heroine of sorts at the end, when in point of fact she wasn't and ultimately sabotaged the safety of her beloved Pepik and Pavel.

So, yes, this novel whilst a very readable very well written book is a pretty big disappointment and though somewhat based on the Pick family experience is lacking in terms of anything new to say. It's still worth a read but if you wanted to read a novel about that era and asked me for a recommendation, I would recommend Markus Zusak's The Book Thief among others and this novel would not spring to mind instantly 7/10

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