Saturday, September 3, 2011
Booker Longlist Reading - Far to Go by Allison Pick
I don't often seek out historical fiction. Even when it is historical, I have noticed I tend to prefer it when the focus is on relationships or events on a small scale contrasted against the broader historical background. I definitely don't want narratives of battles or wars or long descriptions of bodice ribbons.
I think that is why I connected so well to Far to Go. It tells the story of secular Jews living in Czechoslovakia during World War II, from the perspective of their "gentile" nanny, Marta. It focuses on the Bauer family as they try to comprehend what being Jewish now means to them as the Nazis invade and the Allies have so easily given up the region where they live. It covers the kindertransport, and speaks to themes of religious identity and betrayal. I'll admit that I got teary at the end, a power few books actually hold. I think it is worth reading.
If I had to guess, I would expect this to show up on the shortlist, which should be announced on September 6. I have one more from the long list at home to get through, but I won't make it through everything by then. (Go here to view the entire list). I read as fast as I could and requested as many books as I could locate in a library, but that does nothing for the three that aren't even available in this country yet.
I can't really talk about Far to Go without mentioning The Glass Room, which was on the shortlist for the Booker in 2009, a book I enjoyed. The characters in it didn't seem as personal, though. I think part of the point both authors are trying to make is to stress the wealth and social prominence of the people who would later die in concentration camps simply because of their ethnic or religious background. Both books I'm glad I read, and I hope you can learn as much as I did.