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Between Shades of Gray
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February 2016: World War II > Between Shades of Gray / Ruta Sepetys - 2.5**

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5808 comments Between Shades of Gray – Ruta Sepetys
Book on CD read by Emily Klein
2.5 **

In 1941 Stalin’s Soviet Army invaded Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia; those countries ceased to exist, being absorbed into the Soviet Union. The residents of those nations were “deported” to Siberia, accused of crimes against the Union. Men, women and children were held in camps with little or no food, clothing or shelter from the harsh conditions. Millions died. Some survived and eventually their story became known.

Sepetys based this novel on the story of her own grandparents. Fifteen-year-old Lina is the narrator, a budding artist and daughter of a university professor. She records her experiences in a journal and in drawings depicting the people, conditions and events they endured.

There is an important historical story here, but Sepetys’s writing left me cold. Lina was in many ways a typical self-absorbed teenager, mooning over the cute boy, demanding to know “why,” complaining about how unfair it was, acting without thinking. But her circumstances were far from typical, and her rash behavior could easily have gotten her (and her family) killed – more than once. Her constant referral to other characters as “the grouchy woman” or “the bald man” without giving them names also irritated me. These should have been human beings rather than stereotypes.

Emily Klein didn’t help with her narration on the audio book. I found her performance overly dramatic to the point that I wanted to “boo” her. I rarely round-up with I give a half-star rating, but in this case I will, because I feel that the audio performance affected my rating more than the writing.

The audio version does include a final segment / interview with the author, where she explains the family history that brought these events to her consciousness and how she researched the book. That was a heartfelt and emotional tale, and I’m very glad I kept listening to hear the author talk about this very personal journey. The text version does include some of this information in an Author’s Note, but it is written as more historical information and lacks the emotional impact of hearing the author’s story in her own words.


Jenni Elyse (jenni_elyse) | 1313 comments I actually really liked this one. It brought events to my knowledge that I hadn't learned/heard much about before. And, I liked that it was done in a historical fiction way rather than just as a memoir or biography.

But, I can understand where you're coming from. I guess that's why there are so many different types of books out there so we each can find the best way to have a story presented to us.


message 3: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6433 comments Hmmm. I have to admit that I'm a little tired of books where a relative narrates a story of their parents, grandparents, uncles, cousins, whatever.

I just read Angle of Repose where it was done about as well as one can do it, but the setup strikes me as tired even when done really well. And often it isn't.

Somehow I think it takes me out of the story just too many times and makes it hard to really relate to either the past or present day tales. And usually the present day part is dull.

Not sure that was the issue here, but just noting it because it strikes me that a reader interested in the present day life of a typical 15 year old may not be the same one interested in reading about Russian prison camps during WWII. I think the idea may be to create more mass appeal, but it leaves me cold.


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