Ruta Sepetys did a couple really brilliant things with this book that I really appreciated. First, I loved the theme of art throughout the novel and how it is what kept Lina sane. How she weaved Munch and his artwork throughout the story really captured my attention. Second, I really appreciated the way that she would use a single word to trigger a memory that Lina would share with us. It is exactly how real life is when you make connections between the present and memories.
I will say that the only negative thing I have to say is that I wanted more. I really felt that it started to rush a bit towards the end and then it ended too suddenly. However, it was not done in a way that hurt the brilliance of the book, but just enough to bother me.
And now, I am intrigued by this time of history. As I've stated in the past, I didn't feel like I had a very good history education and often learn new things from historical fiction- this was no exception. I'd always known Stalin was evil, but I never knew why. This book taught me so much and has made me want to learn more. I was talking with a friend about it and she made a very good point- we often don't learn about genocides or other hardships within a country if the dictator doesn't cross borders. It is only when it starts to affect us do we begin to care. That needs to change and this history is one example of why.
"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 form work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realize that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape.
We were taken." (p. 3)