To Siberia
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To Siberia

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3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  1,124 ratings  ·  239 reviews
I was fourteen and a half when the Germans came. On that 9th April we woke to the roar of aeroplanes swooping so low over the roofs of the town that we could see the black iron crosses painted on the underside of their wings when we leaned out of the windows and looked up.


In this exquisite novel, readers will find the crystalline prose and depth of feeling they adored in...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Graywolf Press (first published April 1st 1999)
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Chrissie
I adored this book. Fabulous writing - even better than Out Stealing Horses. I have added In the Wake by the same author, simply because he writes so well. Read this book. Read it soon. Read it now. This is one of those books that every second spent reading is enjoyable. It is about a family and the people making up this family. And it is about the wonderful strong relationship between brother and sister, a relationship that glows in the cold harsh Scandinavian landscape of the 40s. This relatio...more
Jeanette
3.5 stars for story, 4.5 stars for writing

I don't know if there is a genre called artistic fiction, but that is the best way to describe this book. I really enjoyed reading it very slowly, creating pictures, sounds, smells, and emotions in my mind. Sometimes I would go back and re-read a passage just to be sure I was getting the full benefit of the scene the author created. There are some things about the story itself that are ultimately unsatisfying, but the writing is so exquisite at times tha...more
Teresa
I can't help but think of the novel I read right before this one, which also had a brother-sister relationship at its core (Machine Dreams). I enjoyed both, though beyond the close sibling relationship in both novels (the closeness due, perhaps, in part to parents whose relationship is not a good one), a war intruding on a somewhat isolated community in each, and an important similar plot point, the time period and the writing are different. As I was reading, I was also reminded of this quote fr...more
Jon
This is the third of Per Petterson's novels that have been translated into English. The other two deal with grown men struggling to come to grips with tragic events in their lives. To Siberia is told from a woman's perspective; a woman, at the time of the telling of the story, in her 60's looking back over her childhood and troubled transition to young womanhood. Invariably, I find Petterson's books acquire new meaning and certain details are illuminated by re-reading them. His books seem decept...more
Steve
This book is really about home: how the home you live in may not be the home you long for, how sometimes family folks can deal as much damage to your home as an invading army.

One reason I often prefer crime fiction is that the author will put characters in interesting situations and let the story tell itself, with little explanation of why, leaving the reader to draw his or her own conclusions from the story. Petterson shares this trait with my favorite crime novel writers; he lets us find our...more
David
I very much enjoyed this episodic reminiscence of one girl’s coming of age in a village at the far north of Denmark. The title refers to the narrator’s childhood dream of making a railroad journey across the continent to the crystalline wastes of what is for her an exotic storybook land. The early scenes in which she follows her brother (and hero) Jesper on various escapades are written with a naïve vividness that truly evokes glowing sights and fresh sensations, fears and pleasures of those chi...more
Steve
As atmospheric, melancholy, and meditative as Out Stealing Horses and In The Wake, but I found To Siberia a bit more obtuse (which is not a complaint). A number of reviewers have called the later sections less satisfying, and suggested that the brother/sister relationship at the heart of the novel ends too early, but I had the opposite reaction -- as much as I enjoyed that relationship's developing complexities as the characters moved from childhood to maturity in the shadow of war, the novel re...more
Joan Winnek
This story is even more poignant than Out Stealing Horses, and as beautifully written. Here is a passage to illustrate the writing:
I cycle north at dust towards Kæret Beach past the marshes at Ronnene where the seagulls sit in long rows in the shallows beyond the reeds,and all the rows take off as I ride past, unfold like gray-white sheets and land again in the dim light that slowly fades and disappears towards Skagen. There are thousands of them. I hear their soft rushing and feel the wind in m...more
thewanderingjew
Per Petterson is such a gifted author that with the simplest of language and briefest of sentences you are somehow transported into a world of sharp images.
This poignant tale highlights the lives of a very close brother, (Jesper) and sister, only known as "sistermine", who grow up in a very rural sheltered community of Denmark under the influence of rigid, very unworldly and uneducated parents. The story is told through the eyes and voice of "sistermine". As she reminisces, the scars of the time...more
Gregory
This is the third Per Petterson novel I've read recently; I think they may be some of the best novels I've read from a living author. I've probably said it before, but if you like the work of Knut Hamsun or W.G. Sebald, then I highly recommend Per Petterson's novels. He has a simple, sometimes lyrical style, much like Hamsun (he's also Norwegian); memory and family play a big part in this story. My only regret is not saving it for the winter time (though there were some scenes set by the water,...more
Coffeeboss
The spare writing was intriguing, and the setting of Jutland, Denmark pre- and during WWII (when the Nazis occupied Denmark) was ripe for exploration, but somehow this book ended up making me feel wanting of more. A relationship between sister and brother is developed, then as war happens, the siblings go separate ways. I wish the book was twice as long, but as it was, it felt too slight, leaving interesting ideas and settings introduced, but not explored enough.
Irene
This is the memories of a childhood in the 1930s & 1940s in a small town in
Denmark, in a fragile family at a turbulent time in the world by a narrator who believes that all her significant living and loving was experienced by the age of 23. Had this not been told by an incredibly gifted pen, the short novel would have fallen very flat. But, this author creates a stunning tapestry out of very slender threads.
Becca Loo
i want to give this book five stars but it's only the second book i've read by him and as in love as i am i think he might get better. out stealing horses was better than this so i don't wanna give them the same rating. either way, he's my new love. i think he has 5 books total and this proved to me that i'm going to read them all. the writing style is the same as out stealing horses: sparse. i guess i really like this style because i've started reading more and more books like this. it takes pl...more
Greg
To Siberia broke my heart. Not because of any particular character or event, but rather more because of the overall tone and cadence. The language left me with a feeling of desolation. The actual events of the book are almost rendered moot as a result, as the reader is often already feeling anger or sadness when a situation arises that is meant to evoke such reactions. Especially by the end, I felt like I pretty much knew what was coming but that it hardly mattered because my chest was already a...more
Vishy
After reading ‘Out Stealing Horses’ by Per Petterson, I thought I will read ‘To Siberia’ written by him, which I had got along with ‘Out Stealing Horses’. I finished reading most of the book yesterday – and if some sudden things hadn’t cropped up, I would have finished the book yesterday itself, which rarely happens for me, because I am a slow reader – and finished reading the last few chapters today. Here is what I think.

What I think

‘To Siberia’ is about a sister and brother growing up during t...more
Jessica
I had tremendously high expectations for this book, told by an older woman who looks back reminiscingly at her life growing up in Denmark, pre- and post-WWII. It tells the tale of this woman's relationship with her brother Jesper, his contributions to Nazi resistance, and her less-than-warm family life.

While so many others raved about the prose, I just didn't feel it. Perhaps, because this was translated into English, something was lost from the original Scandanavian meaning? Personally, through...more
Jessie
As full a sense life as I found in Petterson's OUT STEALING HORSES. Beautiful young female narrator, as precocious, stubborn & sensitive as Munro's Del in THE LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN, and a brother-sister relationship here that made me weep. I can't help but give a prose-tasting from early in the novel (p 16-17) when the narrator and her brother Jesper go into the barn to get warm; Jesper speaks of Dorit the cow:
"'You have to say something, you must talk to her,' says Jesper from behind the...more
Rob Blixt
Jan 17, 2008 Rob Blixt rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of simple, character driven fiction
This is a wonderful novel that falls into one of my favorite categories: simple, character driven fiction. The setting is Denmark during a time period that spans the Second World War, but this war-time setting doesn’t take front stage. Petterson uses the setting and plot as tools to underscore his main focus: the internal workings of his narrator, a young girl with a complicated relationship with her older brother. Like Petterson’s other novel, Out Stealing Horses, much goes unsaid in this novel...more
Lorelai
My copy from the goodreads giveaway arrived and as I wrote earlier I am on a reading jag so I am starting this today.....I finished reading this book a few days ago and finally have the chance to sit down and write that I feel in love with the writing and story from the first page and I read as swiftly as time would allow.

Per Petterson's writing style is sparse, emotive and very evocative. Feelings and experience move effortlessly from word to stark and well defined imagery. To Siberia is a smar...more
Julina
This was given to me as a Christmas gift from my boss, who thought I would love the author (Norwegian, Per Petterson) but had never read the book himself. I enjoyed it and found many strong lyrical moments to revel in. At the end, however, I felt more critical of the narrative structure and the choice of narrator/protagonist (a nameless young female who begins as a child and grows into young adulthood during WWII)... I particularly felt that she grew less believable as she aged and couldn't help...more
Cindy
So much of the world around "Sistermine" is cold, wet and white. The snow and the sand and even the milk. Her brother Jesper wants to escape their cold and harsh home and parents by getting himself to the warmth of Morrocco. But the heroine thinks she'll find happiness somewhere even colder, wetter, and whiter, so she dreams about getting herself "To Siberia."
I'm a fast reader, but I found myself deliberately slowing down as I read to better savor the language - so evocative of the time and plac...more
Mark
Petterson's beautifully written, dream-like novel takes place in German-occupied Denmark during WWII. The narrator, a young girl coming of age, comes from a superbly dysfunctional Danish family. Her brother becomes involved in the Danish resistance fighting and escapes to Sweden. This is the second of his novels that I've read and it didn't dissapoint. His writing is highly descriptive yet succint. Even in translation it was gorgeous. The characters are formed from that Scandinavian angst that o...more
Cheryl
I had to rush through the middle to end since it was due at the library, but I wasn't too sad about that. It just didn't move me nearly as much as Out Stealing Horses. The story was about sibling connections, but it was so depressing in so many ways, maybe all ways. I guess it is perception and identification: some might have found Stealing Horses depressing but I identified with the character so much and found some positivity in the end...
I was disappointed... There was a lot of the same descri...more
Ferris
"To Siberia" is a stunning novel about the relationship between a Danish brother and sister. The setting is a fishing town during and after the occupation by the Nazis. Petterson's writing is absolutely poetic. His use of language illuminates this fairly dark story with light, the light of perfect metaphors and phrasing which tugs at the heartstrings of the reader. I strongly recommend this novel whose themes include: family, the many forms of love, loyalty, and the determination to follow one's...more
Ill Literati Crazy People In Books
A beautifully articulated novel.

Petterson's prose moves the reader--I felt like I was in a different world, stark yet gentile, narrated by an unnamed Danish girl living in Jutland who dreams of someday moving Siberia.

Subtle yet powerful, this story is about growing up, the love between a brother and a sister, and dealing with the harsh realities of life.

A great pick for the literary fiction lover.
 Sophia B
4.5 stars. A portrait of a girl during the 40´s in Scandinavia, a story about love between siblings, a coming of age, longing and betrayal. Petterson is the norwegian Master when it comes to painting pictures and describing feelings with words... I am stunned again! Please read To siberia and Out stealing horses. Hope the translation is good, because in norwegian it is just brilliant!!!
Beth Anne
this book blew me away. the prose was so beautifully written. the quiet sadness in the cadence of the story only enhanced the loneliness and desperation that the plot is meant to portray.

the relationship between Jesper and his sister, the narrator is beautiful and true...which makes their separation all the more upsetting and depressing once it happens.

Shirley
Sep 22, 2008 Shirley rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes family interactions.
Recommended to Shirley by: Goodreads
I just finished the ARC of this book. Starting out reading it, I thought it seemed dull. The more I read, the more I was involved with this family in an isolated area of Denmark. It was so unusual and so well written, the story of the brother and sister and their family was in the end fascinating.Per Peterson is a very rare talent indeed.
Dawn
Beautifully written--I'm always amazed when a male writer can get inside the thought of a woman and make her such a strong, well-developed character. Story about a brother and sister set in Denmark just before, during, after WWII. Favorite thing: Brother calls his sister "sistermine"--lovely.
zan
There should be warnings placed on prose this good. "WARNING: Reader likely to find themselves attached to couch and/or bed for hours, completely absorbed in story. Possible side effects: crying, cerebral numbness, elbow pain from holding book upright. Do not operate heavy machinery after reading."
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Petterson knew from the age of 18 that he wanted to be a writer, but didn't embark on this career for many years - his debut book, the short story collection Aske i munnen, sand i skoa, (Ashes in the Mouth, Sand in the Shoes) was published 17 years later, when Petterson was 35. Previously he had worked for years in a factory as an unskilled labourer, as his parents had done before him, and had als...more
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“What I liked was the train ride. It took an hour and that was enough for me to be able to lean backwards against the seat with closed eyes, feel the joints in the rails come up and thump through my body and sometimes peer out of the windows and see windswept heathland and imagine I was on the Trans-Siberian Railway. I had read about it, seen pictures in a book and decided that no matter when and how life would turn out, one day I would travel from Moscow to Vladivostok on that train, and I practised saying the names: Omsk, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, they were difficult to pronounce with all their hard consonants, but ever since the trip to Skagen, every journey I made by train was a potential departure on my own great journey.” 3 likes
“But I enjoyed the feeling of wind in my hair, and I knew my father liked to see it blow straight out when we stood on the quay and watched the boats come in. And after all it was my only pride.

The train waited behind us, puffing and hissing through its valves, and even though it was only an hour's journey to Skagen, I had never been there.

'Can't we go to Skagen one day?' I asked. Being with Jesper and his friends had made me realize the world was far bigger than the town I lived in, and the fields around it, and I wanted to go travelling and see it.

'There's nothing but sand at Skagen,' my father said, 'you don't want to go there my lass." And because it was Sunday and he seldom said my lass, he took a cigar from his waistcoat pocket with a pleased expression, lit it, and blew out smoke into the wind. The smoke flew back in our faces and scorched them, but I pretended not to notice and so did he.”
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