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Far To Go

by Alison Pick

When in 1938 Mr Chamberlain announced to the people of Britain that he had secured "Peace in Our Time" his words fell on ears pricked in apprehension: Britain had held its breath, waiting anxiously as the drama at Munich was played out. And not without reason, for Hitler and his accomplices had galvanised Germany into a formidable fighting machine, well armed with modern weapons, while Britain had been enjoying the twenty peaceful years since the nightmare of the Great War.

There is no doubt that as Mr Chamberlain's words emanated from the wireless, Britain breathed a sigh of relief. Sceptics there were, of course there were. But very few Britons wanted war with anyone, much less the Germans, with whom they felt they had no real quarrel. Few gave serious thought to the Czechoslovakians in the Sudetenland who had been surrendered to Hitler in return for "Peace in Our Time". It was thought that the majority of the people in that part of the world were of German origin, anyway. That the Czech President Benes had not been invited to the "peace talks" pricked only a few uneasy consciences. But what help could Britain have been in her unarmed condition? Peace was what Britain wanted, and found the German attitude exasperating. Had they learned nothing from the terrible Great War? And the French were not much better, still rattling old sabres.

But far away, in a land that Britain knew little about, there lived a community that had everything in their world to lose from that "Peace in Our Time": the Jews in the Sudetenland were utterly betrayed.

FAR TO GO begins in Czechoslovakia in 1938. The Jewish Bauer family are well-to-do and successful in business, but aware that many of their friends have already made their escape, alerted by talk on the wireless of Austria and the Anschluss, and the benefits of the Nuremberg Laws. News had filtered in from Germany. But Pavel Bauer had his factory, inherited from his grandfather, and his workers to consider. What would happen to them, thrown out of work if he closed his factory? He loved his family, his house, his friends, and Czechoslovakia - his country. So he left it too late and paid the price that so many perfectly innocent Jews were made to pay. But the Bauers saved the life of their small son, Pepik, by sending him away to Scotland to live among strangers. FAR TO GO is set in the story of the Kindertransport. It is written as if by Pepik's adoring Nanny, who, with her daughter, goes in search of him after WWII.

Alison Pick, in writing this masterly novel, has drawn upon the journey her own grandparents made from their native Czechoslovakia to Canada during the Second World War.

Published by Headline Review, 325pp.

Paula McMaster

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