The Shades of Gray Book You Should be Reading

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Published:  2011 by Speak (an Imprint of Penguin Group USA)

Source:  Purchased

  It is so unfortunate that this book has been overshadowed by that other book with Shades of Gray in the title.  I admit to not reading the other book (nor do I ever expect to, frankly) but I am aware enough of its subject matter to know that the similarities in titles are the only thing the two books share.  And I know I shouldn’t judge a book without reading it but I am confident in saying that Between Shades of Gray is the far better novel.

Between Shades of Gray is the story of Lina, a young Lithuanian girl who loves to draw and who has been accepted into a prestigious art school.  Unfortunately, the events of World War II arrive at her doorstep and after her father is arrested by the Soviet Army and taken away, Lina, her mother, and younger brother Jonas, are also forced to leave their home and begin a long journey to work/prison camps in Siberia.  Though the conditions both en route and at the camps are horrible, Lina’s family makes every effort to stay together and to stay positive with the hope that they will make contact with their husband and father.  Lina keeps up with her drawing, and through a network in the camp that extended outside of it, she sends her work out in the hopes that it will reach her father.  Her drawings also have other significance, which I will leave for you to discover on your own.

The story itself is difficult to read, but I found it fascinating, as I was not aware of such oppression of Lithuanians, though I can’t say I’m surprised the Soviet Union did it (I’m reading a non-fiction book now about Soviet influence in Eastern Europe after WWII, called Iron Curtain , and they were brutal in every way).  The author also does write very well, and managed to create vivid images with her words that I found pretty despite the bleak story presented.

I can’t and won’t tell you not to read that other Shades of Gray book, but you should also make a point of reading this one.

Highly recommended.

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9 Responses to The Shades of Gray Book You Should be Reading

  1. Kats says:

    And what about “Shades of Grey” by Jasper Fforde? That’s been on my TBR for a long, long time!!

    • bibliosue says:

      Oh yes! Thanks for the reminder, Kats, it’s on my TBR as well – in fact I think I have the audiobook — so many books, so little time 🙂

  2. Isi says:

    I’ve read both Shades of gray, hehe, and you are right: they can’t be more different from each other.
    I liked the story very much, I haven’t read much about the Soviet Union before and I leant a lot with this novel. I also liked so much Lina, the main character. It’s a great book.

    PD: in Spain the titles are different: this one by R. Sepetys is titled “tones of gray”, so in my mind I don’t have any conffusion with the titles! And I love your cover much more than the Spanish one. It’s beautiful!

  3. Isi says:

    Oh yes, the titles say a lot in your mind!
    For example: The name of the wind (Patrick Rothfuss) and The shadow of the wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafón), are very similar and I can never say the right title I’m talking about. In addition, in Spanish “wind” and “shadow” have similar words: “nombre” and “sombra”, so the confussion gets higher!
    It’s curious.

  4. zibilee says:

    This is a book that I have had for the longest time, and still have not read. I think part of the reason is that I am somewhat burnt out on WWII literature, but it sounds like this one takes a very different angle and subject, so I should probably stop stalling and read this one already!! Very clear and heartfelt review. I also will be ignoring the other 50 Shades book!

    • bibliosue says:

      I have this bizarre fascination with WWII literature, zibilee, even though most of it is bleak and depressing. This one has bleak and depressing moments too, don’t get me wrong, but like I mentioned the writing is quite nice and I am glad to have learned about this part of the tragedy of the war.

  5. Melissa Mc says:

    Loved this book!!! Haven’t read the other…but this one was worth every page.

  6. Ooh, I’m really interested in Lithuania and would love to read this. Lithuania has a really interesting history, I think. And Vilnius us one of the most charming cities I have ever visited!

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