War is hard. That is an understatement. I’ve been reading a book by Ruta Sepetys that I picked up randomly at a Charity shop in London. Books are SO expensive here! I’m forced to buy from a limited collection. Anyway, I digress.
This book is about a Lithuanian family, well, what is left of them when the father is separated. Second world way, Lithuania is torn in a war between Stalin and Hitler, was there a worse position to be in? Well, I’m reminded of Afghanistan from A Thousand Splendid Suns, but this is just as bad.
So Lina, her mother Elena, and brother Jonas, are taken to labour camps thousands of miles away from their home. They are weak, malnourished, exploited, abused even. For three hundred grams of bread a day each, they are forced to dig in fields all day. They steal from rubbish bins, try to save each other and others in the group, while Lina waits for her father to come for them.
There is not one page in the book which is not depressing, not one that uplifted my spirits. Sure, there is the occasional kindness from unexpected places, but that too is lost in page after page of tireless, hopeless existence.
Two things about the book. It is an easy read, can effortlessly glide through pages and so, can be read anywhere. Secondly, the subplot of Lina being an artist who is inspired by Munch is amazing! I love subplots that go into other forms of art; it means that I pick up some other trivia along the way.
Lastly, after coming to Edinburgh, I have met Germans, Lithuanians, Romanians etc. It is so much harder to read such books when you know people from those countries. They are beautiful people, cultured and every bit as worthy of a life of dignity as anyone else. And to think of such horrors that their kin has endured!