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Far to Go [Hardcover]

Alison Pick
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 1 2010
“I wish this were a happy story. A story to make you doubt, and despair, and then have your hopes redeemed so you could believe again, at the last minute, in the essential goodness of the world around us and the people in it.” So begins the mysterious present-day narrator and the compelling saga that takes us deep inside the world of one Jewish family during the lead-up to the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Pavel and Anneliese Bauer are affluent, secular Jews, whose lives are turned upside down by the arrival of the German forces. Desperate to avoid deportation, the Bauers flee with their six-year-old son, Pepik, and his beloved nanny, Marta. Pepik manages to secure a place on a Kindertransport, but he never sees his parents or Marta again. And it is through the fascinating present-day strand in the story that the unexpected fates of each of the Bauers is slowly revealed. 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.

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Product Description

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 2011-02-07)

...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 2011-02-04)

...what sets Pick apart are her modern chapters in between her looks into the past. (Telegraph Journal 2010-09-04)

[. . .] a [. . .] fast-paced, suspenseful, moving and unique tale. (Sharon Chisvin Winnipeg Free Press 2010-09-04)

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 2010-09-10)

An intriguing experiment in the art of storytelling. (Elaine Kalman-Naves Montreal Gazette 2010-09-16)

...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 2010-09-24)

Far To Go puts a new spin on moral compromise...shows terrific craft and emotional intelligence. A winner. (Susan G. Cole NOW Magazine 2010-10-20)

Pick has a knack for narrative and an ear for the authentic...a beautiful, haunting story. (Elana Rabinovitch Women's Post 2010-10-29)

...a page-turner... (Nancy Wigston The Toronto Star 2010-12-10)

. . . [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 2011-05-12)

. . . authentic . . . Pick's writing is so gripping . . . (Jennifer Lipman Jewish Chronicle 2011-08-11)

Far to Go is a breath-taking, heart-breaking novel, and Alison Pick is a beautiful writer. (Angie Abdou Fernie Fix 2011-09-12)

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 2011-11-04)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and provocative read. March 1 2012
By TimI
Far to Go is powerful and compelling writing. Pick weaves a well-researched slice of history into a moving story that will stay with you. I'm already looking forward to her next book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A promising premise, but disappointing March 10 2014
This book pulled me in with its premise but it soon became clear that execution was not going to follow through. A story of Jews in Czechoslovakia on the brink of WW2 the lines of the narrative are predictable and the writing is not good enough to make one read this for that alone. I found this book on the whole to be less interesting than the subject deserves.
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5.0 out of 5 stars iNSPIRATIONAL April 16 2013
By BruceW
The story is beautifully constructed, and I really lived alongside the characters.
By the time I reached the final chapter I was almost totally convinced that this was not a work of fiction but was a story taken from a daily journal.
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I finished reading Alison Pick's "Far To Go". It is a well-researched novel that puts you in the pre WW2 time period as if you were there in person. It is beautifully written and heart wrenching. It's images and characters have been residing in my thoughts since I finished. The present-day-character's story that is interwoven with the past so well describes the emotional aftermath of the war.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling and riveting Jan. 7 2011
A beautifully written, spellbinding piece of work. The characters are compelling and the story's plot twists and turns in large and small ways. Every detail is captivating and full of suspense. The kind of novel that sweeps the reader away into another time and place. Very moving, layered, and powerful. Pick is a wonderfully talented writer. Strongly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far To Go April 2 2011
By Cyn
I enjoyed the story and the way it was written. I really made you think about the lives of those involved in the war and how little things cause people to make decisions that may be entirely wrong and have profound effects. It was thoughtful character development and good writing.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Better books on the same subject. Aug. 13 2011
By Paolo TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The Toronto based Alison Pick goes over somewhat familiar ground in her tale of a family of well-to-do Sudetenland jews and the events of their lives leading up to and following its annexation by Germany in 1948. At the heart of the story are the Bauers, Pavel who is a Jewish factory owner, his glamorous wife Annelies, their son Pepik and their maid Martha who narrates. Ultimately it is the story of the Kindertransport, for as the Bauers see that their options for escaping ever fiercer grip of Nazi rule diminish their only hope is to see Pepik out of the country safely.

The other aspect of the story is that of another Annelies, a holocaust researcher who is trying to track down Pavel in modern day Canada so that between them they can piece together the true story of what happened back in Czechoslovakia during the war.

This book suffers from the comparison to far greater books such as the immeasurably better Austerlitz by WG Sebald for all its haunting melancholic meta-fictional brilliance, or one can even look to last year's booker prize longlist for a more interesting holocaust novel in Simon Mawer's 'the Glass Room'. Alison Pick barely moves her narrative above the pedestrian and does nothing with her story that has not been done many times before.

Stylistically too the book has its flaws and one would never guess the author to be a poet because her symbolism and analogy are drab and obvious. Pick also hit against a pet peeve of mine by the pointless use of well-known foreign words to try and add an international flair, something usually the preserve of mediocre travel books.

Pick has clearly been inspired to tell the story of her own family history so I can understand why she has chosen to write it, but it's predictable conventionality means that it never lifts itself above the mediocre and I am at a loss as to explain how it made it into the Booker long list. I would be very disappointed to see it make the short list.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars One tragedy among many
Alison Pick's recent novel, "Far to go", tells the story of one family's efforts to survive the persecution of Jews in Czechoslovakia during 1938/39. Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2011 by Friederike Knabe
5.0 out of 5 stars best written novel of the year.
Alison Pick's FAR TO GO is without a doubt the best-written novel of the year.
All those who I know have read it cannot understand how it got overlooked for the major literary... Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2011 by gabriel moyal
5.0 out of 5 stars The power of family
Far to Go is a beautifully written, ingeniously constructed novel about a little-known event in the terrible story of the Nazi attempt to kill all the Jews of Europe. Read more
Published on July 4 2011 by chalkie
5.0 out of 5 stars Far to go
This was the saddest book I've ever read, but in a good way. When I finished the last page, without a pause, I went straight back to the beginning and started again. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2011 by Robert Olajos
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply moving book
"Far to Go" has been added to my list of favorite books. A compelling read with moving, complex characters, the book explores a familiar topic in such a deeply personal way that... Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2011 by Sarah Hopn
5.0 out of 5 stars Far to Go
I have just finished reading this book, and I was sad to put it down. It a really thought provoking read. I highly recommend reading this book!!!
Published on Jan. 25 2011 by KatieM
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