Quill & Quire
Although set in the months leading up to Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, Alison Pick’s second novel does not wrestle with sweeping ideological conceits about the nature of evil or the burden of memory. The Holocaust is faintly alluded to in the novel by hushed voices on the radio or a body found in the street, but it is never a fully realized presence. While Far to Go is not a Holocaust story in the traditional sense, it is a poignant work that brims with feeling.
The story focuses on the Bauers, a secular Jewish Czech family, as they cope with the twin struggles of an increasingly anti-Semitic cultural climate and a strained marriage. Marta, the Bauers’ nanny, is the novel’s eyes and ears, and also its heart. Naive to a fault and crippled by a compulsive desire for a family, Marta is the novel’s only fully realized character. Pavel, the Bauer patriarch, is a lionized, wooden white knight, and his wife, Anneliese, is spoiled and childlike. Seen entirely through the lens of Marta’s simplistic worldview, neither is granted any nuance or complexity.
The novel stumbles through a number of sections told by an unknown narrator, whose voice is woven into the central narrative and whose (easily guessed) identity is revealed as the novel progresses. Pick’s subject matter is compelling enough to stand alone without this contrived plot device.
But setting aside these missteps, Pick’s gorgeous writing is to be savoured: her prose is enhanced by a poet’s sensibility. She creates a richly imagined, sensuous world where flavours and aromas waft through the pages and every detail is vividly drawn. Far to Go is at its most moving in its final section, as Pepik is shipped off to England as part of a Kindertransport. Here, Pick heartbreakingly renders the child’s terror and confusion at being separated from his family. His disorientation mirrors our own as place and time are blurred in the narrative. Ultimately, the aching need to belong emerges as the emotional pulse of this deeply felt novel.
Far to Go is a worthwhile and accomplished, if not flawless, novel. (Peter Webb The Bull Calf
...Alison Pick has crafted a powerful story...Far To Go demonstrates the devastation of war - and the effects it has on the children who grow up through it - without going anywhere near a battlefield. (Adrienne Brown Guelph Mercury
...what sets Pick apart are her modern chapters in between her looks into the past. (Telegraph Journal
[. . .] a [. . .] fast-paced, suspenseful, moving and unique tale. (Sharon Chisvin Winnipeg Free Press
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. (Steven Galloway The Globe and Mail
An intriguing experiment in the art of storytelling. (Elaine Kalman-Naves Montreal Gazette
...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 (Geraldine Sherman National Post
Far To Go puts a new spin on moral compromise...shows terrific craft and emotional intelligence. A winner. (Susan G. Cole NOW Magazine
Pick has a knack for narrative and an ear for the authentic...a beautiful, haunting story. (Elana Rabinovitch Women's Post
...a page-turner... (Nancy Wigston The Toronto Star
. . . [a] spare, powerful novel . . . it is bewildered six-year-old Pepik, and his harrowing journey, that encapsulates the loss and hope and heartbreak that is the life-blood of this extraordinary story. (Eithne Farry Daily Mail
. . . authentic . . . Pick's writing is so gripping . . . (Jennifer Lipman Jewish Chronicle
Far to Go is a breath-taking, heart-breaking novel, and Alison Pick is a beautiful writer. (Angie Abdou Fernie Fix
A heart-rending story about a decision that shapes the lives of both those on the train to freedom and those left behind. (Grace Toby Chatelaine