So, first off, I didn’t actually finish reading this book. Ya’all can kill me now.
*comes back as a zombie*
This poor book had to have its name changed, because it was originally Between Shades of Grey, but then it came out as a movie, and that was far too similar to 50 Shades of Grey, and we can all agree that those belong to two very different audiences.
I picked up this book because my sister loved it, and I loved the author’s other book Salt to the Sea.
I however, did not like this book (at least…what I read of it).
Again, I did not finish it (so if you like you can take this with a pinch of salt or paprika, whichever you prefer), but here’s the thing that couldn’t get over.
I have never been a big fan of flashbacks (in real life or fiction). I don’t use them a lot in my own writing unless it’s very important. When I do, they are short and shown through the mind of the character. The character is actually having the flashback instead of the book having a flashback by inserting a random scene that happened in the past (and we can all agree that inanimate objects having flashbacks is kinda creepy).
So you get the gist I don’t typically like flashbacks. I feel like they take me out of the story. So, for myself, flashbacks need to be really tied to what is happening right then and there for the character and make the scene more emotional and tell the reader something they HAVE to know, AND is told by having the character them self remember the scene and relate it to what is happening now.
This book…just did not do it for me with the flashbacks.
First off, they were in italics (oh gosh why though). Now, this might not be the fault of the author, so I won’t place the blame on her. I’ll blame the designers who made me read a page length of italics and screwed up my eyeballs and forced me to get a pair of spectacles.
Second, more important thing: the flashbacks were boring. Like snooze-land and I honestly skipped them (I have no shame).
Let me explain:
The story takes place in Lithuania during WWII. The Soviets are taking people (teachers, doctors, whoever they don’t like basically) and shipping them off in trains to Russia for manual labor. The story is gripping in the sense that the characters’ fates hang in the balance in every scene. So when a flashback comes along….
Like I don’t care. I don’t care about what her father said to her or that day she went to the bakery. Like whatever. A pregnant lady just got dumped into the truck and she’s bleeding all over the place. No one cares about your nice, fond little memories.
BUT, I think the flashbacks could have been remedied in two ones.
Make the character THINK them. For instance, on the train they pass by Vilnius (*drum roll* pop quiz of the day: what painting was hidden there during the war?). Enter flashback. In the flashback, she is in school and her teacher sees one of her drawings and suggests that she should go to art school in Vilnius in the summer. She is excited tells her father etc.
But not boring would be: as she peers out the train, she looks at Vilnius and thinks about how she should be there studying art instead of stuck on a filthy train with weird people. She gets angry, sad, etc.
Second way to fix the flashbacks would be….like really good writing. Like really evocative writing that just sucks you in. Something to make the flashback just as gripping as what is happening right now.
I also couldn’t stand the mother but that is a whole other thing which makes me a lot me angry and we just don’t have to go into that right now.
Anyhoo, thank you for listening/reading to my little rant there. How do you feel about flashbacks? Reading/writing them?
Researching literary agents take a lot of time. That’s all I have to say.