- Hardcover: 280 pages
- Publisher: House of Anansi Press; 1st Edition edition (Sept. 4 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0887842380
- ISBN-13: 978-0887842382
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.8 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 499 g
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #378,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Far to Go /hc Hardcover – Sep 4 2010
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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)
Top customer reviews
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I suppose what's usually expected about novels dealing with The Holocaust is breadth. The sense of 'the epic'. The subject certainly deserves the column space it tends to get. This isn't to say there isn't nuance, yes...but it's a subject that deserves to be treated reverently...and for most novelists, this means 'at length'.
Perhaps it's Ms Pick's grounding in poetry that allows her to present something of great poignancy without venturing into the 'overwrought'. It's a simple story with a short time-span with an equally simple narrative framework. While being limited in its scope, it never turns 'precious'. In fact, I think that the spare approach makes for a far more powerful story; Less in this case is definitely more.
It's not a memorable novel. It's not one about which I might say to a friend about 'You simply MUST read this!' But it's a loving paean to its backdrop, to family, to loss...to Love. I can absolutely see this being adapted for the screen...even though its scope might play against it in the end.
Looking forward to her next book.
The primary narrator is Marta, an orphaned country girl, dependent on the family of Jewish factory owner Pavel Bauer. Working as their young son Pepik's governess Marta feels very much part of the family. When Germany occupies the western region of Czechoslovakia in 1938, life for the Jewish population there turns increasingly precarious. Pavel moves his family to Prague, convinced that they will be safe in the Capital... However, it is only a question of time, before the German Army occupies teh city. Torn between her deep feelings for the Bauers and her pro-Nazi German lover, Marta's perspective on the unfolding events is hovering between trust in the Bauer's continuing ability to care for her and her fear that remaining with them might jeopardize her own safety. Her loyalty to her employer is soon tested.
The novel opens with the second, present-day story, written in the second person. Its narrator is early on introduced as a researcher inquiring into the fate of Holocaust survivors, who escaped as children from Czechoslovakia thanks to the 'Kindertransporte'. The narrator's "project" does explain to the reader the appearance of a number of letters "reprinted throughout the story. They inform us, primarily through their "file notes", of the fate of several of the novel's characters, post 1939.
Overall, "Far to go" is a very moving story, simply, yet sensitively told, that concentrates on the daily life that Marta and "her" family are confronting. There is a surprising emphasis on cooking traditional dishes, described by their Czech names. Still, the dangers hanging over the family are palpable. The tense atmosphere in Prague at the time is convincingly depicted. Sometimes, though, I found the choice of narrative voice too limiting, Marta demonstrating a tendency for reducing complexity to oversimplification. The characterization of Pepik's parents and their interactions, also with Marta, seem too simple and eventually predictable. The narrative thread centred on the Kindertransport and one child's fate later on is very cursory and brief and, for me, does not convincingly convey the depth of trauma experienced in cases like this. We have, of course, powerful and deeply moving accounts on this theme, whether in fiction or not. For example, Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald stands out for me as the most memorable among them. Pick's novel is ambitious in attempting to deal with several daunting topics, some very personal to her. While, well presented, for me the balance and weight of the different threads are not totally successful. [Friederike Knabe]
This book has to be ranked by me as one of the best, compelling, riveting stories about the humanity and pain and loss. I immediately purchased her other book Between Gods.
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