Publication Date: 28th March 2011
Stand alone or series: Stand Alone
Pages: 360 pages
Book Received from: Penguin (Proof Copy)
First Lines: They took me in my nightgown. Thinking back, the signs were there - family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work.
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
I'll admit right now I wasn't one to listen to history or anything like that when this sort of stuff was taught at school. To be completely honest, I don't even remember anything like this being taught. I was a bit skeptical when I read the synopsis because I wasn't sure how I was going to feel but once I picked it up and read chapter one I was completely absorbed in Lina's life. I really liked the timeline and map at the beginning of the novel.
From when Lina, her brother and their mother are taken from their home and herded onto train carriages along with many others and squeezed inside like sardines I knew this was going to be a heart wrenching story.
The story is written beautifully and I almost felt like I was standing there amongst them, feeling and seeing what they saw. I also loved that throughout the book there are flashbacks to Lina's life giving glimpses of what normal life was like before they were taken away. Another thing I liked was how Lina stuck with her drawings and record keeping of what happened while in the concentration camps, even though it was forbidden. Such a big risk to take.
Between Shades of Gray is a heartbreaking novel about the survival of a girl and her family, enduring horrendous conditions and circumstances but still being able to maintain that little spark of hope. This is definitely an eye opener.