I am a huge fan of historical fiction. I think it all started in high school when we read Anne Frank and I could not fathom that people had those experiences in the same world I live in today. I especially cannot believe that disturbingly similar events are happening in this world today – as I write this!! Historical fiction tells stories that are most of the time based on real life experiences; and that alone has the power to make one see the world from a whole new perspective.
When I completed Between Shades of Gray I was speechless. Even more so after reading the author’s note and learning about Stalin and the horrendous crimes that were committed under his dictatorship. For a while I was concerned about my memory because I could not remember ever being taught about this in school. I vividly recall the lessons about Hitler’s Holocaust; but I don’t remember ever learning about the deportation of citizens from Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia during World War II. I only took history up until grade 9 but still, it seems like a significant part of world events that has been over looked. Then I saw that so many others are wondering the same thing – why was this traumatic, vitally important part of history being left out of the school syllabus? Especially considering that it is so closely linked to Nazi Germany.
Lina 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.
Between Shades of Gray was an extremely compelling read – one that I will be reading for years to come. The way Ruta Sepetys captures the unimaginable circumstances these people were forced to endure, chilled me to the bone. Yet, this story was so heart warming because you read about people who had this hope and faith in the world despite the life they were trying surviving. Throughout the book there was this contrast of good, and pure evil that made me so angry. I was angry about the cruelty of the world, I was angry that one person’s life meant so little to another and I was angered by the audacity of some to even think that they were better than someone else – let alone treat another human life as if it meant nothing. I think most of all, I was gutted when I realised that so many more of these stories would never be told because the world do not even know that they exist in the first place.
But, Ruta Sepetys told this story in such a way that you are left feeling at peace. You are left feeling determined and strong to dare hope that better days will greet you in the end. Through all the terror and heartache, you cannot help but have hope in humanity. And this is why I was left utterly speechless – I find it so hard to explain. And I do not think I should, because every person needs to pick up this book and read it. Read it for all those people who were taken from this world without a chance to tell their story.
Have you learned about these historical events during school? What other historical fiction books would you recommend I read? Please leave a comment, I am really eager to know!