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Far to Go by Alison Pick
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Far to Go (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Alison Pick

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2992837,504 (3.74)1 / 62
Member:NanaCC
Title:Far to Go
Authors:Alison Pick
Info:Anansi (2010), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Kindle, Read 2012

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Far to Go by Alison Pick (2010)

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English (25)  Dutch (3)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Loved it. I especially liked the balance between the two different storylines, one modern and the other in late 1930s Czechoslovakia. And the twist at the end! Very clever, very well written. ( )
  lucypick | Sep 23, 2014 |
This book kept me up late at night in an attempt to finish it. While the topic was familiar, it was told in a new and interesting way. ( )
  eesti23 | Jul 19, 2014 |
I picked this up back in 2011 when it was longlisted for the Booker Prize and I wanted to read all the nominees; however, it was cut from the final shortlist before I read it, so I never got around to it.

Many of the books longlisted that year had a twin in terms of theme and subject; Far To Go and Half-Blood Blues are both novels dealing with lesser-known aspects of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. In the case of Half-Blood Blues this was black German citizens; in the case of Far To Go it is the Kindertransport, a rescue mission in the year preceding the war which successfully took nearly 10,000 Jewish children to sanctuary in the United Kingdom from Nazi Germany’s sphere of influence.

Far To Go takes place in Czechoslovakia, first in the Sudetenland and then in Prague, following the Bauer family: father Pavel, mother Anneliese, nanny Marta, and six-year-old Pepik. The Bauers are secular, non-practising Jews, but of course this does not matter to the Nazis. As the oppressions upon their freedom slowly multiply, and as the continent slouches towards war, the Bauer family must make a difficult decision about whether or not to send Pepik away. Much of the novel is about the uncertainty the Jews of Europe faced in the lead-up to the Holocaust. It seems incredible to someone in the modern day that Jews would not take any opportunity they could to flee, but we have the benefit of hindsight; it would have been a difficult thing to abandon a hometown, a family business, friends and relatives, when one had no idea that the oppression would culminate in genocide. It’s particularly awful when reading of families who fled to places which they believed would be safe but which we know were not: Prague, Amsterdam, Paris.

More importantly, though, Far To Go is about the fog of history and memory, tying in with the fate of the transported children themselves: their lives were saved, but they were cut off from their families, their culture, their history. The Kindertransport was only intended to be temporary, but the families left behind almost always died in the camps; these Jewish children were cut adrift. Segments of Far To Go are narrated by a mysterious woman who similarly feels a sense of loss, of not belonging, despite not being from the Kindertransport herself. By the end of the novel it is clear that it has been, somewhat, a piece of metafiction; an imagining of a past that is impossible to reconstruct.

Alison Pick is more well-known in Canada as a poet than an author, and Far To Go is only her second novel. Her prose is competent and flows well, yet never sat quite right with me; too often the dialogue feels constructed, the writing feels a little uncertain of itself. This is less noticeable later in the book, as more momentous and emotional events are occurring, but for the first 100-odd pages it felt a bit awkward. She also sometimes feels to be trying a bit too hard to establish a sense of time, awkwardly inserting bits of contemporary culture (“She could see a copy of the new Henry Miller book, Tropic of Cancer.”)

In this sense it is similar to Half-Blood Blues in more than just subject matter; I would regard both novels as good, but not great. (Interestingly, both also have a protagonist who betrays loved ones to the Nazis as retribution for their own perceived betrayals, and are then forever haunted by that moment of selfishness.) Half-Blood Blues is probably the slightly better novel, which is perhaps why it was shortlisted over Far To Go. Neither, in my eyes, ever really deserved to win it. They are both competent, compelling, important books in which the author successfully instils the emotion and passion necessary for such a serious subject; yet I felt they also both lacked something, some final spark which would have carried them over the finish line and made them truly great. ( )
  edgeworth | Mar 25, 2014 |
Far to Go is one of the most compelling books I've read this year. Allison Pick has created a beautiful work of historical fiction that tells a story of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia--a story that I've never heard told before. I finished the novel feeling humbled and grateful that there are such storytellers at work in Canada today. ( )
  AngelaLaughing | Jan 25, 2014 |
Fascinating read with an interesting writing style - contemporary narrator who remains unknown until bringing the story to its revelatory conclusion..

Relatable characterization with both surprises and authenticity. Emotional involvement with the characters both positive and negative, I wanted to know more, resulting in a nonstop read.

While it wasn't the happy ending, as the narrator had warned, to me it was concluded satisfyingly. History doesn't provide us with all the insights and information for which we would wish. This is definitely one of those instances. And it is fiction, one thing for which I had to remind myself!

( )
  FHC | Jun 13, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Allison Pick brings her award-winning poetic sensibilities to a difficult historical subject in Far to Go. A complex story of a family’s struggle set against the backdrop of the Nazi takeover of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland, the novel focuses on the Bauer family, secular Jews caught in the rise of anti-Semitism...
 
The year is 1938. Betrayed at Munich by European countries desperate to appease Hitler — “Peace in our time,” infamously crowed Neville Chamberlain — Czechoslovakia is about to be invaded by Germany. Toronto poet and novelist Alison Pick dissects this national tragedy in a multilayered narrative, a tale of betrayals large and small, that focuses on the fates of the Bauers, secular Czech Jews.

So much has been written about the Holocaust. Still, Pick, born in 1975 in Toronto and inspired by her Czech grandparents’ grueling five-year journey to Canada, spins a mesmerizing story, threading the personal with the political, the mysterious with the factual. It’s a page-turner
 
Among readers of serious fiction, Jews and non-Jews, many cringe at the prospect of another novel centred on the Holocaust. Enough already, they moan. Is there anything new to be said? Move on, they urge. And yet. And yet.

By delicately tilting her observer’s mirror, Alison Pick glimpsed the outline of an original tale that could cast new light on old shadows — enough, I argue, that even the Holocaust-saturated will admit there’s room for more of these stories if their vantage point is well chosen....Pick wrote an earlier novel and several books of poetry. You might expect a few narrative arabesques; instead there are prosaic pratfalls, tired metaphors and similes, many involving fruit. A group of teenagers are “clustered together like grapes,” something inside of Marta hardens “like the pit at the centre of a piece of summer fruit” and then tightens “like the lid on a Mason jar.” Her story deserves more careful language....So the Holocaust persists in the literary imagination and through the refining fire of fiction a new generation confronts its own version of what it means to be human.

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The writing in Far to Go is clean, crisp and unencumbered. Pick never dwells for too long in an image or metaphor, and she creates small moments that are both lovely and frightening. At slightly more than 300 pages, the book resists the urge to overstay its welcome. It’s very deftly structured and the storytelling is seamless. With rights sold in the United States, Britain, Holland and Italy, Far to Go appears poised to gain a wide and significant readership, and deservedly so.

 
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Epigraph
Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart from your heart all the days of your life, and you shall make the them known to your children , and to your children's children. - Deuteronomy 4:9
Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace, Wednesday's child is full of woe, Thursday's child has far to go. Mother Goose.
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For Ayla
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I wish this were a happy story.
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Holding onto the hope that he and his family will be able to weather the oncoming Nazi occupation, Pavel Bauer, a fiercely patriotic secular Jew, finds his world unraveling as his government, business partners, and neighbors turn their backs on him and his family.… (more)

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