17 August, 2015

Between Shades of Gray - Book Review

 It's been a while since I've read a really good book. I borrowed Between Shades of Gray from the library almost two months ago, and it happily resided on my bedside table. That is, until last week, when I realized that I couldn't renew it again, and I was going to have to return it to the library this week. So I read it. And then, of course, I wondered why on earth I had taken so long to get around to reading such a good book.

Between Shades of Gray is the story of a Lithuanian girl and her family during early World War II, when Stalin and the Soviet Union were 'purging' their territory, particularly the three Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Lina and her family are evicted from their home by the Soviet police, and sent in cattle cars to Siberia, where they faced more hardships.

It is historical fiction, but the author's family are Lithuanian. Her father escaped, but not all his family did. Ruta Septys did a lot of research, visited Lithuania and interviewed survivors, historians and others. This personal link adds depth to the story.

It was a side of history and World War II I hadn't read about before, and didn't even realize it happened. As it says in the author's note: “Caught between the Soviet and Nazi empires and forgotten by the world, the Baltic states simply disappeared from the maps.” (page 339) She also adds that the Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia – “lost more than a third of their population during the Soviet annihilation.” (page 341) The saddest thing about it for me, was when I read that their war didn't end with freedom and victory in 1945, like other war stories I've read. When these exiles returned to their countries again, they were still under Soviet control, and they were forced to live in restricted areas, under supervision from the Soviet police. They were not allowed to speak of their experiences. This didn't end until 1991. 

The author's note was really touching:
“Some wars are about bombing. For the people of the Baltics, this war was about believing. In 1991, after fifty years of brutal occupation, the three Baltic countries regained their independence, peacefully, and with dignity. They chose hope over hate and showed the world that even through the darkest night, there is light. Please research it. Tell someone. These three tiny nations have taught us that love is the most powerful army. Whether love of friend, love of country, love of God, or even love of enemy – love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit.” (page 341)

It's very well written, and easy to read.It's not a pleasant, light book about sweet times, but it's still good, and enjoyable because even despite the terrible situations Lina and her family go through, this book is full of hope. It shows us an accurate, yet horrific, picture of what thousands of people had to endure – and some didn't make it. Yet, even through such terrible times, there was still hope, and there was still love, and there was still selfless men and women, boys and girls, who can teach us, that in our peaceful, easy age, we have a lot to learn.

In short, it's really good, and I think you should read it. :)


  1. Thanks for posting about this book! It definitely sounds like the sort of thing that read, and I will have to see if I can find it somewhere. Your review made it sound a lot like The Endless Steppe, by Esther Hautzig. Have you ever read that one? It's one of my favorites.

    1. Thanks for your encouraging comment Janie! No, I've never read 'The Endless Steppe', but I just looked it up, and it sounds interesting. Perhaps I'll add it to my 'to-read' list!

  2. Woops! Meant to say that *I* read.

  3. Thanks for sharing this review, Jessica! I've seen this book about for a while, and it captured my interest with its WW2 Holocaust themes, and now I am really more interested in reading it as well from your great review. Glad you enjoyed it!

    I love reading about WW2 stories, though it is often so painful and heartbreaking, yet for me I really feel like we just "cannot forget"!

    Many blessings!

    1. Yes, I agree - I enjoy reading stories about war, even though it seems so wrong to "enjoy" them, when they're often horrific... They always make me so grateful for the life I have though.
      I'm sure you would enjoy 'Between Shades of Gray' - I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on it too!
      Thanks for your comment & have a great day!

  4. Now I want to read it. That's exactly the type of book I like to read and I reckon that's the best book review you've written. As in it was well written. I think this course has done great things for you. Just concreting my thoughts I wrote in my email. :)

    1. Yes, do read it. I know you'll like it. Or, I'm pretty sure you will, anyway.
      Thanks - I was actually a bit uncertain about this book review, as it seems different to some others I've done, and I felt like I'd 'lost' how to write a review. So, praise God! And it's nice to hear that the course has done something for my writing too - sometimes I wonder! :)


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