x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Far to Go: heartbreaking family melodrama

The Kindertransport programme, which sent nearly 10,000 Jewish children away during the Second World War, without their parents, from Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia to foster families in Great Britain, provides the foundation for Alison Pick's heartbreaking family melodrama.

Alison Pick's second novel tells the story of Pavel and Anneliese Bauer, an affluent Jewish couple living in Czechoslovakia in 1939, who are compelled to send their young son Pepik abroad, amid fears of impending occupation by forces from Nazi Germany.

While Far to Go is a work of fiction, the Kindertransport programme existed and sent nearly 10,000 children away during the Second World War, without their parents, from Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia to foster families in Great Britain.

This provides the foundations for a heartbreaking family melodrama, but also an exploration of the effects of war on children, who are devastatingly described by Pick as "millions of little lights snuffed out".

The subject matter could only be described as depressing, but to Pick's credit, she constructs an utterly convincing chain of events that lead to the unbearable necessity to send Pepik away.

The political situation in Czechoslovakia changes slowly at first, and the reader can only wince every time the Bauer's decide to stand proud rather than flee. They have, of course, no way of foretelling the unspeakable inhumanity that awaits them.