Far to Go

Far to Go

eBook - 2010
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Winner of the Helen and Stan Vine Jewish Book Award and finalist for the Man Booker Prize

In Far to Go, one of our most accomplished young writers takes us inside the world of an affluent Jewish family in Prague during the lead-up to Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia.

In 1939, Pavel and Anneliese Bauer are secular Jews whose lives are turned upside down by the arrival of Hitler. They are unable to leave the country in time to avoid deportation, but they do manage to get their six-year-old son Pepik a place on a Kindertransport. Meanwhile, a fascinating and compelling present-day strand in the story slowly reveals the unexpected fates of each of the Bauers. Through a series of surprising twists, Pick leads us to ask: What does it mean to cling to identity in the face of persecution? And what are the consequences if you attempt to change your identity?

Inspired by the harrowing five-year journey Alison Pick's own grandparents embarked upon from their native Czechoslovakia to Canada during the Second World War, Far to Go is an epic historical novel that traces one family's journey through these tumultuous and traumatic events. A layered, beautifully written, moving, and suspenseful story by one of our rising literary stars.

Publisher: Toronto : House of Anansi Press, 2010.
ISBN: 9780887842771
Characteristics: 1 online resource (314 p.)

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Aug 12, 2014

The devastating themes of this story are treated with a thoughtful and poetic writing style that creates a hauntingly beautiful book. The narrator warns you that there will be no happy endings. There are none. I read the ebook version and there are some minor problems with the translation to digital, especially handling the Czech phrases.

rsmbarlow Apr 17, 2014

This was a really good book despite a slow start. Themes of betrayal, memory and family were strong throughout and the author raised some powerful what if's. Alison Pick has a non-fiction book coming out in Fall 2014 about her discovery and exploration of her Jewish heritage which is definitely on my list.

Honeywell1 Oct 08, 2013

amazing book. If you want another great read try the far side of the sky; a novel of love and death in shanghai by Daniel kalla

May 02, 2012

Very good. I was left with two themes related to facism. First, the disbelief of people at the time of the horror occuring; secondly, the small betrayals and subtle co-opting of non-Jews.

BPLNextBestAdults Nov 15, 2011

In 1938, Pavel and Anneliese Bauer are enjoying their affluent lifestyle in Czechoslovakia with their small son Pepik and his nanny Marta. But the Nazi shadow begins to fall on the Bauers’ lives. Britain and France, hoping to appease Hitler and secure ‘peace in our time’, agree not to oppose his invasion to ‘liberate’ German-speaking citizens of Czechoslovakia.

Against this backdrop the Bauers, nominal Jews only, find that privilege and assimilation cannot insulate them from the invading Germans and, more frighteningly, friends and neighbours beginning to sympathize with the Nazi agenda. As petty resentments lead to small betrayals the Bauers are increasingly at risk. Will they leave everything behind and escape, or should they ride it out? Or is it already too late? Most heartrending of all, should they try to send small Pepik away in the Kindertransport evacuation?

A suspenseful, and moving account of the tensions and painful decisions made in the leadup to war.

Oct 14, 2011

I wanted to like this book more than I did, because of the premise of it. Unfortunately, all the flashes between past and present wore away at my interest, and I just wanted it to stay in the past. The past story was a little weak, but I felt like the present-day part of the story really didn't add anything, and was a bit too overdone. Of course, once I got to the end, and realized why these flashes happened, it felt like I could have tossed away the whole book and been better for it. Greatly disappointing. I hope this seeming trend of historical fiction that places more emphasis on modern-day characters looking back on history, as with books like "Sarah's Key" (which was really poor), will go away soon.

Aug 13, 2011

Very good read, but was missing something for me...longlisted for the 2011 Booker Prize.

wendybird Mar 11, 2011

2nd time Canadian novelist Alison Pick situates the story of 20-something nanny, Marta and her wealthy Jewish employers in 1939, in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. A separate story line – that of a twenty first century professor clinically examining this same time & place – runs alongside until the final chapters. While the modern piece intrigues and informs, it is Marta’s tale that lifts the novel, and makes it extraordinary.

The reader is pulled right into daily urban European life, circa 1939. While there are pockets of new and unsettling brutality, Marta’s world still hums warmly along as the novel opens. Her charge, 6 year old Pepik Bauer, adores her. His parents, Pavel and Anneliese Bauer lead civilized, cultured lives and provide Marta a comfortable, loving home. It is these characters – so fully and beautifully rendered by Ms. Pick – that keep one reading.

When these characters speak, act, think – the changes wrought by human conflict are distilled. This is not World War II on a big map but rather, it is the same war on a more imaginable scale. The heart rending decisions and mounting pressures on the Bauer household because of what they see in their own neighborhood and experience with their own community are no less revealing than a front line soldier’s. Indeed, in some ways they are more compelling -- life was fine, lovely, and then, incrementally it creeps towards slaughter. At one point, crowds gathering on their streets start seeming menacing rather than celebratory, and Marta thinks, “The day was losing shape, like a worn-out undergarment. Time coming loose, a thread at the cuff. Marta twirled a strand around her forefinger. Indeed, all of the continent was coming unraveled; the thoughts of this one small individual allow a crystal clear image of life there, at that moment.

debwalker Jan 02, 2011

Toronto poet and novelist Alison Pick dissects the tragedy of Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 in a multilayered narrative, a tale of betrayals large and small, that focuses on the fate of the Bauer family, secular Czech Jews.
Nancy Wigston, Globe & Mail Dec 12 2010.

Sep 01, 2010

Author Alison Pick was inspired by her grandparents' own arduous five-year exodus from Czechoslovakia to Canada during World War II in constructing the story of the flight of the Bauer family from the encroaching Nazi occupation. She couples down to earth, propulsive description with occasional flourishes of the cinematic, all interwoven with the deft and poignant use of literal and symbolic images. Trains, which bookend both the story of the Bauers and the voice of the book's modern day narrator, are a powerful case in point. Young son Pepik's toy train set interconnects the Bauer home, is a source of both distraction and solace for him and his family, and is a reminder of his absence when his parents secure him a place on a Kindertransport, part of a series of trains used to rescue children from Nazi occupied territories to be placed with families in the United Kingdom until and if the children could be reunited with their parents after the war. Arrivals and departures on train platforms, especially Pepik's dramatic departure, are on one hand like typically dramatic movie scenes, but Pick underpins them with the earthy sights, sounds and smells of desperate, frightened human beings. Throughout, she invests images like this with both thematic potency and realistic dramatic resonance.

The voice of the present-day narrator in Far To Go - wounded but resilient - is a reassuring and steadfast guide to the conclusion of this riveting story of a family torn asunder, then reassembled in a perhaps somewhat surprising fashion. The voice is wary, damaged, almost resigned, but the note of contentment at the end suggests a faith not entirely extinguished by the cruelties of history. This is a journey and a voice worth following to an unexpectedly redemptive resolution. Even the green-tinged tones of the cover convey a hopefulness that builds with a subtle momentum over the course of this absorbing book.

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