Pavel and Anneliese Bauer think that they will be safe. That their young son, Pepik, will be safe. They are affluent, successful, good people.
Yes, they are Jews, but they are secular Jews, not practicing the faith.
But of course they won’t be safe. And they will have to make painful decisions about what to do, about how best to protect their son.
Alison Pick tells their story simply and clearly. She picks out details beautifully. Day to day details of an ordinary family that has to carry on, through a terrible period in their country’s history.
Telling her story in the third person, through the eyes of Marta, Pepik’s gentile nanny was, I think, a wise decision. It pulled me away from the story just a little, and allowed me to see it more clearly.
And it was the most effective way to show so many different emotions and reactions.
At first Pavel wanted to stand his ground, acknowledge his Jewish heritage, believing that right will prevail. Anneliese was more pragmatic, eager to cast off her Jewishness and escape. And Marta worried about her young charge, and about her own future. And she made some bad decisions.
They all made bad decisions. Bcause they were in an impossible, unprecedented situation. Because they had no idea what their futures might hold.
Their characters were so well drawn. They were utterly believable, complex, fallible human beings.
My heart nearly broke when Pepik was sent away to safety on the Kindertransport. I understood why, but he didn’t understand, he didn’t want to go and, like so many other children, he had to be torn away.
The whole story was painful to watch, because the situation was so impossible. And yet the pages turned quickly. Because, though I feared the worst, I had to know.
There was just one weak link: the contemporary framing story. It lacked the clarity of the main narrative, the different styles felt mismatched, and I really wasn’t sure what was going on.
In the end though it made sense, and I understood what the author was doing.
A flaw, but not a fatal flaw.
Far to Go is a moving, human story. A different view of a period that has been written about so much.
Alison Pick has built well on both her own family history and her research.