The Snow Hare
In this "riveting, heartfelt" novel of love and consequences (Heather Morris, New York Times bestselling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz ), a woman dreams of becoming a doctor until World War II leads her instead into an astonishing love—and a fateful choice.
Is it possible to fall in love at the edge of life?
Lena has lived a long, quiet life on her farm in Wales, alongside her husband and child. But as her end approaches, buried memories begin to return. Of her childhood in Poland, and her passion for science. Of the early days of her marriage, reluctant wife to an army officer. Of the birth of her daughter, whose arrival changed everything.
Memories less welcome return, too. Her Polish village, transformed overnight by the Soviets, and the war that doomed her entire family to the frigid work camps of the Siberian tundra. And buried in that blinding snow, amongst the darkness of survival, the most haunting memory of all: that of an extraordinary new love.
Exploring motherhood, marriage, consequences, and our incredible human capacity for hope, The Snow Hare is the story of a woman who dares to love and to dream in the face of impossible odds, and of the peace we each must make with our choices, even long after the years have gone by.
As Lena's life comes to an end, she thinks over paths that led her here. A comfortable childhood in Poland, a desire to be a doctor, and a war that will push them to the frozen edge of the world.
I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
The story follows Lena, as an elderly woman on her deathbed in England.
Her mind inevitably drifts back to the life she had led, and we also follow Lena as a young woman in Poland.
Lena is singularly focused and wants to be a doctor, despite not many women being allowed to take up the profession. Her family supports her dreams, and provide her with schooling and books; but her mother is also hoping that Lena will forget about the doctor dreams, when she falls in love with a suitable man.
All of their plans are thrown askew as the threats of war become a reality.
Unfortunately, I found the first half really slow and hard to connect to.
Despite the fact that I thought it was really interesting, watching how the war affected Lena's hometown. The Soviet soldiers came, and everything changed. Neighbours are turned against each other; everyone is living under the fear of being labelled as an "Enemy of the State", and made to disappear.
While Lena works as a nurse, you get to watch the risks that the local doctor takes, secretly providing medicine for people that aren't allowed it. You can feel the dark inevitability of what will happen.
The problem is that everyone else is interesting, but Lena seems oddly disconnected from the world.
You could argue that the memories of an old woman are imperfect; or that she remembers the actions of other more clearly; but it made it hard to be invested.
Lena is lacking in personality beyond the sole-focus to be a doctor, at the expense of everything else.
I found that some of her choices and actions (or lack of actions) contradicted everything her character had been built up to. Especially concerning a certain person. She allows herself to be pushed into things, despite her thoughts and words constantly opposing them.
The second half was much easier to connect with our main character, when Lena and her family are rounded up and sent to the frozen end of the world, to work in a labour camp.
Lena becomes more focussed on helping her family survive, and she learns to embrace each day, and appreciate the little things.
Lena's developing friendship with one of the guards is terribly sweet, a complete contrast to the horror they are all living through.
Throughout the second half of the book, you get the sense of foreboding - you know where Lena ends up, and you know that not everyone makes it. It's just a question of how it will happen, and it hovers over everything, making it so much more painful as you can't help getting attached to her family.
Overall, this was a 2.5 out of 5 for me. I found the second half of the book very moving, and it was interesting to learn more about life in a Siberian labour camp. Unfortunately, I found the first half very hard to get through, and I couldn't come to terms with some of Lena's decisions at the end of the book, too.