Book review: Shadows on the Tundra + competition

By Dalia Grinkeviciute
Translated from the Lithuanian by Delija Valiukenas 
Published by Peirene Press

Synopsis: In 1941, 14-year-old Dalia and her family are deported from their native Lithuania to a labour camp in Siberia. As the strongest member of her family she submits to twelve hours a day of manual labour. At the age of 21, she escapes the gulag and returns to Lithuania. She writes her memories on scraps of paper and buries them in the garden, fearing they might be discovered by the KGB. They are not found until 1991, four years after her death. This is the story Dalia buried. The immediacy of her writing bears witness not only to the suffering she endured but also the hope that sustained her. It is a Lithuanian tale that, like its author, beats the odds to survive.

How did this book end up in my hands? I received an advance reading copy from the publisher in exchange of my honest opinion.

Was it a page-turner? No, I wouldn’t say it was. I did read it fairly quickly – a few days – but it also relatively short at 204 pages so it could have easily been a two hour affair were it a different kind of book. Emotionally, it is tough going.

Having read the synopsis, did the book meet my expectations? ‘Survival literature’ says it all. I think I wasn’t expecting to become so emotionally involved but Dalia was such an inspiring young woman that avoiding it was impossible. 

Did I like the ending? [no spoilers] It was strangely more uplifting than you would think.

Three words to describe it. Haunting. Bleak. Surprisingly uplifting.

Do I like the cover? It is very elegant, like all the covers in the Peirene series.

Have I read any other books by the same author? These memoirs were written on scraps of paper and buried in the garden so that the KGB would not find them. As far as I’m aware, this is all that Dalia wrote.

Will I be recommending this book? This is not a book you’d read for fun but it is incredibly inspiring and therefore, yes, I will definitely recommend it. I wasn’t even aware of the Soviet deportations from Lithuania so I feel like I have learnt a lot from this book.

Anything else? Yes! One lucky reader will receive a 50% discount code to purchase the book directly from the publisher’s website! All you have to do is follow me on Twitter and retweet the competition post by 2/12. UK only. All comments left below will count as extra entries (one per person). Good luck!

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