Sunday, 9 September 2012
Far to Go - Aliison Pick
At the beginning and the end of this book are a list of names with dates of birth and confirmed or possible dates of death. I interpreted those lists in one way, another reader may interpret them in another. They are not necessary to read the book, and they may enlighten or confuse, but they serve as a reminder that although fiction, this book is firmly based on fact, and makes the inhumanity of some towards others become clearer. Again, although fiction, hats off to Alison Pick - she's done the research and makes the book a persuasive read.
I knew of the Kinderstransport before I read this book; I didn't know much about the appropriation of Czechoslovakia by the N.azis - but I know more now. I felt for the little family involved here; the Bauers with their only child, six year old Pepik, and his nanny Marta. The Bauers are non-practising Jews, Marta is a Gentile. It isn't explained how Marta came to be working for the Bauers, but she's been part of the family for a very long time, and it's more than likely that her charge loves her more than he does his mother Annalise, a beautiful but rather self centred character. His father Pavel, a successful factory owner looks to his own religion when he realises what is on the horizon. These main characters form a tight little group, each one seeing the future, all not really understanding how bad it may become.
In those dark days of 1939 diplomacy wasn't working. Hitler knew what he wanted and it mattered not what any other nation thought, he was going to take it. He was also set on solving the Jewish "problem" once and for all, and you do get a glimpse of how he set out to achieve that. The book is like a parcel at a party, gradually undoing the layers of the horror to come in Europe at that time, and I shared with the Bauers that initial feeling of "surely not?", even though I knew the outcome. One of the layers is the insertion every so often of a letter from a parent to their child - gone from them, on a train taking them away from the horror to a place of safety until they could return home later. As with the lists in the book, I didn't try to identify each family with a letter, but as I got nearer the end, I found little clues that put things straight for me. A very short description of the rail station, and conditions on one of those childrens' trains was an eye opener. War is not all death and destruction around you, but the very real fear of not knowing what it was that was happening to you.
And the kinder? of course, there never was a "home" for those children to go back to. No house, no parents, no loving family to return to. Ever. Some went to families who loved and cared for them. Some ended up in orphanages, homeless, stateless and alone. All of them free of the N.azi threat, some made their way in life, some were lost and broken. Poor Pepik.