That morning, my brother’s life was worth a pocket watch…
Lina is just an ordinary, young Lithuanian girl. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until the night in 1941 when Soviet guards haul Lina and her family from their home. Separated from her father and forced into a cattle car, Lina, her mother and her younger brother begin a harrowing journey north, across the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the frozen wastes of Siberia.
There they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to struggle for their lives under the cruellest of conditions. Lina’s only solace is her art. At a great risk, she draws, recording the beauty and the horror and even the ordinariness that she sees every day, hoping that one day her father, wherever he may be, might look upon her work.
Until that day, Lina must wait, draw and try to survive…
Setting. I have always really enjoyed reading both fiction and nonfiction about the WWII era, so I was really excited to pick this book up and explore another story of that time. I did really like the setting of the time, and also the journey across Europe that this book gives. The book is very visual and so it is easy to picture the beauty and horror of the landscapes described.
Characters. Every character was wonderfully diverse in this novel and I loved how much art influenced Lina’s and the other characters lives. I really got a sense of comradeship between the other prisoners and I liked how we had a soldier who questions the morality and humanity of what is happening to the Baltic people.
Plot. This truly is a story about humanity and the definition of it. I liked how this book aims to give voice to the lost history of the Baltic countries, but I feel that it still had too many WWII tropes to really make this story unique and memorable. It also felt a little too predictable—of course, it still had to follow history, but being historical fiction give the author flexibility in what to emphasise to make the story interesting. So I was somewhat disappointed by this as this book is super hyped and has been recommended to me numerous times and it didn’t quite live up to my high expectations.
Writing. I am completely in love with Ruta Sepety’s writing style; it is somewhat poetic, engages the reader, and weight to the horrors of war. My favourite aspect of the writing is the use of flashbacks to give background and depth to the story.
Overall, I did quite enjoy the book and plan to read more by this author.
Recommended to: historical fiction lovers and those looking for a deep read.
Please Note: all opinions are mine and are not endorsed with any company or organization.