Alison Pick will read from her novel Far to Go at the Charles W. Stockey Centre on Wednesday 21 September at 7:30 pm
It was almost exactly a year ago that I read Alison Pick’s most recent novel, Far to Go. I thought it one of the best books published last fall. I immediately contacted the author to do a reading in Parry Sound, and now the time has come. Far to Go was nominated for the prestigious Man Booker Prize and was the winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award.
We know before we begin to read that the parents will be murdered in Auschwitz. The novel opens in the Sudetenland, it is 1938. We will discover what happened to the family at the centre of this novel - Mr. and Mrs. Bauer, their son, Pepik, and his nanny, Marta in the days leading up to the Second World War.
We learn about the Kindertransport and the children who were evacuated, during the Second World War, to the British Isles. A great many of these children never saw their parents, grandparents and other family members again.
For generations the Jews of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia had lived in peace. They were assimilated, integrated into cities and villages – some were factory owners, equal members of society. Many were educated and sophisticated – they lived a good life – they fought for their country during the First World War. But, as Hitler rose to power and began his assault on Europe life changed in the Sudetenland. Some Jews chose to leave for countries where their lives were not restricted – but most could not believe that things would continue to worsen, they stayed, thinking that this madness would pass. We know, of course, that the madness did not pass – it escalated - and changed the lives of all Jews, everywhere in the world, forever.
What I didn’t know before reading this novel was Alison Pick’s personal history and how it relates to her novel. Her own grandparents were able to leave Czechoslovakia, and after traveling for three years from one country to the next, they arrived in Canada in 1941. They left Europe and the war behind them – and with it, their religion. They began a new life, integrating themselves and their children into a Christian world. Alison Pick’s father did discover the truth about his grandparents and their past, but it was not until after his mother’s death that he felt free to do more research about his Jewish roots. Alison’s personal story about how she has been affected by her heritage is one that will make your skin tingle.
Far to Go is the very best sort of historical fiction. It is a story based on real historical events, the lives of the characters lives have some basis in reality, and the melding of fact and fiction, a bit from one life, a bit from another is seamless and believable. It is all put together by a masterful and lyrical writer. The result is a brilliantly written, beautifully paced novel, by a writer who knows how to hold the readers attention – and heart.
Don’t miss the opportunity to hear Alison Pick read from Far to Go, and to learn more about the story behind this extraordinary novel.