Two star review, originally posted here on May 26, 2016.
I was pretty underwhelmed here, and I think the main reason why is because the narrative was very difficult to follow. Another reviewer called in “uneven,” and I think that hits the nail on the head. I’ve been on a Latvian/Baltic kick recently, re-exploring my people’s history through literature I guess, and was looking forward to seeing how an outsider viewed Latvian events from the inside during WWII. But half the time I had no clue what she was talking about. It’s unclear to me who her target audience is, or if she even had one, and her tone was tough to follow. Fascinating tidbits were peeking out here and there, but they were difficult to learn from without much context. To my own surprise I thought the book got more interesting once she was on the train crossing Siberia, when the storytelling became more linear, and the story became easier to follow. But “some westerners complain about dirty windows on a Siberian train ruining their view during war time” wasn’t exactly the riveting tale I thought I was signing up for. The title gave the impression that this book would be along the lines of In The Garden of Beasts, detailing what a nation is like on the brink of tragedy, but instead we got kinda jumbled explanations of what was happening peppered amongst boring stories about going to a beach house.