Far to Go by Alison Pick ****
I adore historical fiction, and I absolutely loved the Czech Republic when I visited in 2012, so it was only natural that I have wanted to read Alison Pick’s Far to Go since I first learnt of its publication. The prologue of the novel begins in the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia, in December 1939, and it then goes back to 1938, which is where its story begins.
Throughout, the second person perspective, along with the use of letters and the like, is engaging from the outset. Pick uses each of these perspectives just as well, and is firmly in control of her story and the language which she uses. Each and every one of her characters is as strong as the sense of place which they inhabit. The looming of war is almost like a character in itself in the novel – ever-present and full of foreboding. The history, and the way in which it affected the Czech people, has been so well researched, and the consideration of events from different points of view has also been well rendered. This probably would have been a five star read for me, if it wasn’t for the modern day narrative which unwound alongside the main story. In my opinion, this was not necessary at all, and it drew me away from the novel a little. Still, Far to Go is a great novel, and one which depicts the way in which one family ‘flee Nazi oppression’ very well indeed.
2BR02B by Kurt Vonnegut ***
I really enjoyed Slaughterhouse-Five when I read it last year, and when I spotted this just waiting to be read on my Kindle whilst on a long weekend in France, I thought I would give it a go. The title of the story refers to a phone number (‘To be or not to be’) which those in rather a dystopian society, the average age of its citizens around 109 years old, are urged to call if they no longer want to live – the number of the Municipal Gas Chambers. As with much of his fiction, Vonnegut’s concept is interesting and, like George Orwell’s 1984, it seems like such a modern vision to have in the time in which it was written. The entirety of 2BR02B is really quite creepy, but it is certainly intriguing and thought-provoking in equal measure.
A Defence of Poetry and Other Essays by Percy Bysshe Shelley ****
I also decided to read this whilst I was in France, particularly after realising how long ago I had downloaded it to my Kindle. The book is comprised of seven essays in total. The majority of them are quite short, and it is possible to read the first few in just a few minutes. Those towards the end of the volume are longer, and require far more contemplation. As one would expect, each essay is beautifully written, and everything has been sculpted so well. Throughout, Shelley plays upon such things as memory, psychology, philosophy, theology and the notion of love. The entire collection is intelligent and well measured, and I particularly loved all of his musings upon Greek literature.