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A Faraway Island by Annika Thor
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A Faraway Island (1996)

by Annika Thor

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: En ö i havet (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3062752,128 (3.98)11
  1. 10
    Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (meggyweg)
  2. 00
    Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: There are similarities between characters (young girl taken in by a stern older woman) and an island setting.
  3. 00
    Good Night, Maman by Norma Fox Mazer (meggyweg)
  4. 00
    Pearls of Childhood by Vera Gissing (meggyweg)
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» See also 11 mentions

English (24)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Sisters Sophie (12) and Nellie (8) are among 500 Jewish children transported from Austria to Sweden in 1939. The sisters miss their parents very much, but they console themselves with the thought that their parents will be sending for them soon and the whole family will emigrate to America. The sisters end up on a remote island staying with different families. Nellie settles in fairly quickly with her host family, but Sophie has a hard time adjusting to the stern woman who has taken her in. She has trouble fitting in at school, where she is bullied by the other students.

This book has won multiple awards in both the original Swedish edition and the English translation. It has an Anne of Green Gables meets the Holocaust feel, but it's more melancholy. There's no “bosom friend” like Diana Barry, and readers will be aware that Sophie's misfortunes are bound to grow as Nazi persecution of the Jews increases. This book should also appeal to fans of Lois Lowry's Number the Stars. ( )
  cbl_tn | Aug 19, 2018 |
Two Jewish sisters are evacuated from Austria to Sweden by the Swedish Aid Society. The story mostly follows the older sister Stephie who lives with "Aunt Marta" and "Uncle Evert" on a small island. Evert is a fisherman by trade, and the couple doesn't have much money. Nellie lives in the same village with another couple, although the plan had been for the two girls to live together. Nellie ends up adapting to the new situation and making friends more easily than Stephie who is bullied by classmates. Stephie dreams of going to "grammar school" upon completion of the sixth grade (which she'd already completed in Austria) and of eventually becoming a doctor like her father. The girls also work to try to get their parents out of Austria into Sweden after their parents' attempts to get into America fail. A friend and I listened to the first thirty-seven chapters on the audio book on a trip. I had to complete the short remainder with the e-book version available to me. I really enjoyed the narrator of the English translation. I also enjoyed the author's comments at the conclusion of the book and hope to be able to read or listen to the remainder of the books in the series. ( )
  thornton37814 | Jul 28, 2018 |
Only when I had the book in hand did I realize this was the first book in a series of four books, and it looks as though the fourth is unfortunately not yet translated into English. I do wish that this story was told in one long book; sometimes I don’t like having to read multiple books to read what is essentially one story. I wasn’t sure I would read on but I plan to keep reading and hope that the fourth book will eventually be available for me to read. This is a wonderful first book. The series is apparently very popular in Sweden and a mini-series was made based on it. I’d love to see it, with English subtitles.

This is a lovely story. It’s a great story with great characters. I loved the two sisters from the start and came to care about a great many of the characters.

It’s heartbreaking but not depressing. In fact, if anything it’s uplifting.

Via the viewpoint of the twelve year old older daughter it gives a great feel for what it would feel like to move to a strange place, to experience the loss of family, to feel lonely, to be bullied, to be different from those around you, to have strangeness turn into familiarity.

The ending seemed a bit rushed, so often true in books, possibly especially children’s books. In one of the fairly early scenes I wondered if a 12 year old would be that naïve even as a stranger with a strange language, and I could have done without the two painful dog scenes, one in real time and one via a memory.

There is a helpful, informative, touching author’s note at the end about her personal connections with this story (she is Jewish and grew up in Sweden, and had relatives who’d died in the Holocaust) and also about refugee children, and about the history of how Sweden took in 500 Jewish children from three countries in Nazi occupied Europe early in the war.

4-1/2 stars I’m rounding down but I’m tempted to change my rating and give it 5 stars. It’s an excellent book. ( )
  Lisa2013 | May 26, 2018 |
Really 3.5 stars.
My review, which can also be found on my blog.

11/1/14
I just finished A Faraway Island, and I really liked it. It's not going on my top ten list of
favorites, but it was really good. I've already begun the sequel, but I'll review A Faraway Island once I've finished that.

A few days later:
Okay, I have now finished the sequel (The Lily Pond) and am bemoaning the fact that the third and fourth books of the series have not been translated into English yet. You see, they were originally written in Swedish!

The book is written in third person present tense, from the point of view of the fictional twelve-year-old Stephie. Stephie and her sister Nellie are two of only five hundred Austrian children who were offered asylum by the Swedish, and I frankly hadn't known anything about the Swedish point of view of World War II. It was very interesting for me to read about the lives of the Swedish during WWII, in part because I am actually half Swedish.

The characterization in the book was good, but not to the point of drawing attention away from the story. Stephie is essentially supposed to be a stand-in for the reader - or at least, that's what she was for me. When I was reading this book I forgot that I was reading about someone else, and became Stephie. I felt perfect empathy with her, despite the fact that I've never been to Austria, World War II has been over for decades, and my real parents were literally in the same house as me for most of the duration of my reading. That didn't matter, because I was sucked in and I felt Stephie's pain. And that's why I enjoyed this book so much.

The secondary characters are still good, but not perfect. My favorite is probably Auntie Marta (with a mark over the "a"), because she's so much deeper than she seems at first (and because I have a thing for tough-love characters). Nellie was shallow and callous, and didn't care at all that she was losing her very heritage as she dropped her native German tongue for the more popular Swedish language. Then again, she was seven years old so what can you expect? She acted her age, even though I might not like it. There's some pretty interesting side threads with two of Stephie's school friends, neither of which I really loved. One of the girls she makes friends with is the illegitimate daughter of a man who died at sea before he married his fiance. She and her mother are sort of the scum of the town, but Stephie doesn't care. It's a nice story line, it just felt kind of dry and cliche.

The other friend Stephie makes at school is more on the in crowd. She's a bit of a goody-goody, and there's a scene later in the book she says that Stephie needs to do something or otherwise Jesus will be mad at her. Forget the fact that I don't agree with the Pentecostal religion that the people on the island follow (seriously, who is this girl to say whether Jesus will be mad at Stephie?!), I just think that's so obnoxious. Stephie. a Jew who was baptized before she even spoke English, gets very mad at her friend and tells her that Jesus doesn't exist. Of course she regrets that later, and I do believe that Jesus exists, but I'm still on her side in that scene.

As a whole, this is a great WWII book. You get to see a lot of the struggles that children who were separated from their families went through, and I never felt like it was fake. The sequel is also well-written, but I didn't find the subject matter as a whole (Stephie delves a bit more into the tween crush phase than I really enjoy reading about) as compelling as this book.

Are you interested in WWII books? Post your favorites in the comments, or ask for recommendations! ( )
  Jaina_Rose | Mar 1, 2016 |
Inspired by real events. During WW2, twelve-year-old Stephie and her 7-year-old sister Nellie are sent by their parents to live with Swedish families for their safety while the parents try to secure entry permits to America (the family is Jewish). Nellie adapts well to her living situation, making friends and learning the language easily. The focus of the story is on Stephie, who has it harder, living with the seemingly stern Aunt Marta and tortured by the kids at school. She also feels the pressure of living up to her parents' expectations and ensuring that Nellie doesn't forget her background. Readers' hearts will ache for Stephie who tries to make the best of a lonely situation and helplessly takes it on the chin from her tormentors. But there are moments of hope and kindness, and the book ends with the relieved sense that Stephie has finally found her place, if only temporarily, in this new country. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Annika Thorprimary authorall editionscalculated
Andreeva, EkaterinaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hansen, Karl N.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Konobeeva, MarinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kutsch, AngelikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ségol, AgnetaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schenck, LindaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weehuizen-Deelder, EmmyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Voor Sara en Rebecka
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De trein gaat langzamer rijden en stopt dan.
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In 1939 Sweden, two Jewish sisters wait for their parents to flee the Nazis in Austria, but while eight-year-old Nellie settles in quickly, twelve-year-old Stephie feels stranded at the end of the world, with a foster mother who is as cold and unforgiving as the island on which they live.… (more)

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