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To Siberia

To Siberia

3.4 11
by Per Petterson, Anne Born (Translator)

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I was fourteen and a half when the Germans came. On that 9th April we woke to the roar of aeroplanes swooping so low over the roofs of the town that we could see the black iron crosses painted on the underside of their wings when we leaned out of the windows and looked up.

In this exquisite novel, readers will find the crystalline prose and


I was fourteen and a half when the Germans came. On that 9th April we woke to the roar of aeroplanes swooping so low over the roofs of the town that we could see the black iron crosses painted on the underside of their wings when we leaned out of the windows and looked up.

In this exquisite novel, readers will find the crystalline prose and depth of feeling they adored in Out Stealing Horses, a literary sensation of 2007.

A brother and sister are forced ever more closely together after the suicide of their grandfather. Their parents’ neglect leaves them wandering the streets of their small Danish village. The sister dreams of escaping to Siberia, but it seems increasingly distant as she helplessly watches her brother become more and more involved in resisting the Nazis.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This 1996 novel predates Pettersen's acclaimed Out Stealing Horses(first published in 2003), and has all of Pettersen's haunted charms. As an unnamed young girl and her big brother, Jesper (who calls her "Sistermine"), grow up in rural WWII-era Denmark, the two cope with distant parents, an eccentric extended family and the cold wind. Jesper longs to go south to Morocco; Sistermine yearns for the plains of Siberia, foreshadowing lives that will diverge. Their grandfather's suicide, the arrival of puberty and most tragically, the German invasion change their idyllic childhood relationship; as each sibling fights back against the occupation in his or her own way, their inevitable separation looms. The second half of the novel, in which Sistermine struggles to make sense of her life in various Scandinavian cities and towns, awaiting a hoped-for reunion with Jesper, is less breathtaking and mesmerizing than the first, but the contrast makes her numb loneliness and inability to connect all the more poignant. The book builds up slowly, casting a spell of beauty and devastation that matches the bleak but dazzling climate that enshrouds Sistermine's young life. (Oct.)

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Library Journal
The realization of life's unfulfilled dreams is the theme of this beautifully written novel, which recounts the unnamed narrator's childhood and adolescence in a small Danish town. She dearly loves her brother, Jesper, the only person in her family she cares about. Her rigid, intolerant parents are unresponsive to her need for affection, scarred by the suicide of her grandfather and her mother's Christianity. Then the Germans bring World War II to their quiet world, and life changes. Jesper joins the underground and is forced to flee the Gestapo. Our narrator continues to dream of escape to Siberia, which in her imagination is an idyllic place where her wishes come true and she is happy. In the final pages, she comes to the realization that her parents are more intolerant than ever, her beloved brother is dead, and she will never be able to fulfill her dream. The author of a story collection and an earlier novel, Norwegian writer Petterson is an outstanding talent. Highly recommended.--Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The Danish response to Nazi Germany before and during World War II forms the backdrop for this coming-of-age novel-first published in 1996 in Norway-that covers 13 years in the life of a young girl. The unnamed narrator and her adored older brother Jesper grow up in a rural Danish village with their stern but deeply loving father Magnus, a struggling humpbacked carpenter, and their musical, fanatically religious mother Marie. In 1934 Magnus takes the family on a short beachside vacation that goes awry but that plants the idea of travel in the narrator's head. She begins to dream quixotically of escaping to Siberia, of all places; Jesper, more understandably, fantasizes about Morocco. Then the children's grandfather hangs himself. They are told that Magnus chose to leave their wealthy grandfather's farm for town life. In fact, Magnus was forced off the farm and now the old man has bequeathed him nothing. Magnus's carpentry shop fails, and Marie begins to run a dairy the family must live above, but in a case of poetic justice, hoof and mouth disease eventually makes the farm worthless. While in middle school, the narrator shares her first kiss with Ruben, a Jewish boy. Jesper, now a printer's apprentice with a wicked sense of humor, becomes a socialist. He dreams of fighting in Spain although he's still too young. When the Germans arrive in Denmark, most of the narrator's friends and family join the resistance. Ironically, Jesper fights a German soldier while the narrator saves one from drowning. The Gestapo takes control of the town. Jesper sneaks into Sweden with Ruben's family. By 1947, the narrator is pregnant and living in Norway. She has not seen Jesper, who somehow made it toMorocco, for four years. She returns home expecting a reunion that never happens. A spare, lyrical novel from Norwegian author Petterson (Out Stealing Horses, 2007, etc.) that possesses historical breadth and a remarkable sense of immediacy.
From the Publisher

“Brilliant . . . a darkly beautiful story.” —Los Angeles Times

“Reading a Petterson novel is like falling into a northern landscape painting--all shafts of light and clear, palpable chill. ” —Time Magazine

To Siberia succeeds in one of the greatest aims of fiction, to transport us to another time and place that makes us see our world with clearer vision, and to recognize the similarities and differences of human nature across time and distance.” —The Dallas Morning News

“Coaxes readers into a sphere of loneliness with the precise prose and keen intellect of a masterful writer. ” —Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

“Petterson's writing is so exact and piercing that, like poetry, it distills [the narrator's] experiences and feelings into imagery that is powerful beyond words. The effect is beautiful and moving, letting the reader connect with the character's vitality and reflect on life with the same fullness and serenity that she does.” —The Seattle Times

“Striking . . . Petterson creates a surprising range of effects, from the silvery surfaces of childhood memories to the twilight depths of shadows falling.” —The Boston Globe

Product Details

Graywolf Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Per Petterson is the author of books including In the Wake, I Curse the River of Time, and Out Stealing Horses, which won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Norwegian Booksellers' Prize. The New York Times Book Review named it one of the 10 best books of the year. A former bookseller, Petterson lives in Oslo, Norway.

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To Siberia 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book had NO plot whatsoever! The author tried to be artsy with the novel but instead succeeding in writing a jumbled mess. Don¿t waste your time. The cover is beautiful and the title holds great potential but there lays the best parts of the entire book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A let down after reading OUT STEALING HORSES. It started out piquing my interest with the sister's impressions of family and village life, her older caring brother, her dysfunctional parents and grandparents. However as the story continued, once the brother's involvement in anti-Nazi activities ended and he left, her wanderings to cities with strange names and sketchily drawn figures went nowhere. We never found out who fathered her expected child and why the pregnancy even happened in the story line. Perhaps it translation wasn't as good as it could have been - the words didn't flow. Not to say that the descriptions of the various locales weren't good - they were. I could not recommend this book.
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Mitakpa More than 1 year ago
Per Petterson did a pretty good job of writing through a female character, until she grew up a little. Once she reached adolescence, I felt like he really lost touch with her--and so did I as a reader. The story really didn't go anywhere, but I enjoyed reading it nonetheless. However, I much preferred another of his books, Out Stealing Horses, which seemed to have a better plot, and which he seemed better able to pull off.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SqueakyChu More than 1 year ago
I love a book which has emotional depth. Not only does this book describe a very close relationship between "Sistermine" and Jesper, a sister and brother with parents to whom they feel distanced, but it does so in a particularly vivid setting. The author makes use of the natural beauty and cold weather of Denmark, and later Norway, to make the setting almost as alive as the characters themselves. The book is divided into three parts. The first part takes place before World War II with the siblings cavorting as mischievous youth. The second part is during the war when Jesper decides to leave Denmark quickly due to his political ideology and activity. The third part is after the war when Sistermine is waiting for her brother to return. For me, the book was really divided into only two parts. The heart of the book was its beginning. After Jesper left, nothing was the same. I was waiting, along with Sistermine, for her brother to return quickly. Together these siblings had a beautiful and wondrous relationship, but alone Sistermine seemed lost and adrift. This is the first book I've read by Per Petterson, but I immediately fell into the rhythm of this Norwegian author's lyrical writing. I look forward to reading more of his work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago