Thursday, September 23, 2010

From Russia With Love: Booktalk 2

Yuri is a teenage boy living in Russia in the 1930s, under a brutal Stalin-like leader. The old rule of the Czars is over: they’ve been murdered and exiled, and no one dares speak of them anymore. The new regime – which Yuri is taught to praise at school – is harsh and unforgiving. People in Yuri’s town live in perpetual fear of being kidnapped and sent away to the work camps, where their chances of survival are slim. Yuri’s parents urge him to keep his mouth shut and his eyes down at the ground. In an unstable police state, anyone can be singled out and disappear without a trace. Yuri’s school is shut down, and he’s forced to do brutally hard manual labor.  When he’s sent to a mining camp in the north for answering a question incorrectly [sentence: ten years], Yuri senses that his life is over. Even if he does manage to get home, his parents may be dead or just gone, like so many others. But youth may be on his side: “Sometimes the sunlight had sparkled so brightly across the boundless sheets of snow. Or, in the stinging wind under the china-blue sky, I’d smelled the blessed spring melt. Once I stood under a tree and my heart sang to see the way its tall brave trunk soared …. I’d watch the eagles soaring overhead. I couldn’t help it” (138).  In a world of bleakness, illness, and semi-starvation, Yuri takes what consolation he can get. The Road of Bones by Anne Fine is gripping historical fiction.

The Road of Bones by Anne Fine. 213 p. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2006. Booktalk to high school, adult.

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