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Having taught in Siberia for six months I came to know its harsh cold intimately. Petterson's ability to evoke time and place brought me back to the realities of living in a place defined by its starkness and reactions to being occupied. This is wonderful storytelling and I will carry Sistermine with me. I found it also a gem in that Sistermine and her observations about her mother and other women were written by a man, who himself has observed keenly.
The frigid landscape of northern Denmark figures prominently in this sparse and poetic book. And, although unfulfilled, the dream of the unnamed young girl who is the narrator and main character of the book is to go to Siberia - with it's clean, cold landscape. The suicide of a grandfather, a homeland occupied by the Nazis, distant and aloof parents, the death of a beloved brother and an unplanned pregnancy...not the stuff of an easy and quick read, but events that will shape a young girl into a self-reliant and strong woman and also things that will keep the reader tuning the pages to see "what happens next."
Perfect for Book Clubs
This book would be perfect for a book club, due to its subtle nature. I would love to discuss it with others, find out which things they considered pivotal, what they believe the story is about. Not having this resource available, I still believe this short novel was worth reading. The translation, or the writer, used many run-on sentences that I had to read more than once to figure out - annoying at first, but led me to interact with the text more than I usually do. The understated intensity of the war experience for this Danish brother and sister led me to think a lot about the book when I wasn't reading it - wondering how things would turn out. To me, that is the sign of a pretty good book!
Intriguing but Disappointing
Written in the narrative voice of a young woman coming of age in Denmark during the German occupation, To Siberia is written in varying shades of gray, which overpower the story at times. The narrator jumps from past to present and from Denmark to Norway with little warning which makes the story hard to follow occasionally. However, the book is rich in description, which occasionally overpowers the plot.
Didn't pull me in.
Couldn't get into it. Seemed too mundane. Maybe I didn't give it a fair chance, but life's too short to read a book that you can't get into. I frequently found myself wondering what I just read, too much daydreaming.
Stark and poetic, beautifully written. I was swept away by this story. I highly recommend this book, although it drags a bit at the beginning, stick with it - you will be glad you did. Great for book clubs, it will generate lovely discussions!
This is a morose, slow moving novel in which the writer feels the need to describe every action in slow motion. It is very heavy on "telling" rather than "showing," and there is a paucity of dialogue and an overabundance both of unsympathetic characters and descriptions of places. The author often shifts tense between past and present without indicating that it is happening and this makes for confusing reading. Guaranteed to put you to sleep should you have insomnia, what with its long paragraphs!
This page turner quickly drew me into the book with its vivid imagery of rural Denmark which serves as a backdrop for the lives and struggles of powerfully portrayed characters, who could really be living anywhere. It also explores how the lives of ordinary people change over time , before, during and after war.
The various themes should bring out lively discussion for any book club. It should be required reading for high school students as it could make them think about how their dreams and choices, despite circumstances, can effect their futures.
To Siberia haunted me, leaving me with much to think about long after the final word was read.