Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Setepys

Before commencing this book review, I would like to let it be known that I am talking about Between Shades of Gray, not Fifty Shades of Grey. I quite enjoyed the former, and have absolutely no intention whatsoever of reading the latter because there are very few things I find less appealing than so-called erotic fiction, BDSM culture, and Twilight, and Fifty Shades of Grey is apparently a terribly-written mishmash of all of those things. After reading the excellent two-part review over at Book Riot, I feel that I can go the rest of my life without acknowledging its existence.

Moving right along, Between Shades of Gray is really an excellent book. I saw it while perusing the e-book section on the library website, and decided to download it because I was totally unfamiliar with the subject matter: the plight of the intelligentsia and their families in USSR-occupied countries. Lina, the narrator, and her family, are highly-educated, well-placed Lithuanians. After Stalin-controlled Russia annexed Lithuania, her family is torn apart by Soviet soldiers, who load Lina, her mother, and her brother into wagons and pack them off to Siberia (her father is taken separately).

Lina's tale is eerily reminiscent of Holocaust memoirs in many ways: families are torn asunder, innocent people are taken captive and brutally abused by soldiers, they must endure long rides in cattle cars with no food or water, and are eventually forced to labor in starvation conditions and freezing weather. Many, if not most of them, eventually die. In an effort to stay sane in that environment Lina, who had previously hoped to go to art school, spends much of her time drawing what she sees in hopes that she will be able to escape and tell the truth of what happened to her family.

Highly recommended. 4 out of 5 stars. 

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