Book Review: Across Great Divides

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When Hitler rises to power, chaos and upheaval follow as families flee in order to avoid persecution and stay alive. Eva, her twin sister Inge, their younger brother, Max, and their parents are one such family.

Fleeing Germany is no easy feat as restrictions are tightened and war breaks out. Venturing from Belgium to Brazil to South Africa, the family struggle to stay together and survive.

But love can be found in the hardest of places and the family have hope that they will find happiness again. All they need to do is find a place that feels like home.across-banner

Author: Monique Roy

Title: Across Great Divides

Publisher: Monique Roy

Date: 2013

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Across Great Divides left me with very mixed feelings.

On one hand, I always feel that any writing about the war and the struggles people went through is worthwhile. The more people know about this era, the more chance there is of avoiding atrocities happening again. The content deserves credit.

From a story-telling and writing perspective, however, I had issues with this novel.

Roy has clearly researched what she is writing about – which is admirable! There were passages that felt like they were regurgitating research though, rather than applying it to the characters and their struggle. This distanced me from the characters and, despite what they were going through, it was hard to connect and empathise with them.

The majority of the novel is from Eva’s point of view. There are a lot of random passages here and there that follow someone else – and it felt that was done just to bring in another element to the story rather than moving the plot forward.

I disliked Eva as a main character, especially in the second half of the novel. She came across as naïve and ignorant when dealing with Zoe – her maid in South Africa – through instructions as staying in the kitchen and only being seen to serve the food. Yet this is coming from a woman supposedly determined she wouldn’t treat Zoe the way other masters would.

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This flaw echoed across the entire family. Everyone was supportive of Max joining a resistance group in Germany – because it benefited them. When he tried to make a stand against apartheid, however, his family clearly told him not to be involved and it wasn’t worth the struggle.

While this may have been reality for some people, a novel needs to have likeable characters for the message to be driven home. Max was the only one prepared to stand for what he believed in, even when it was dangerous. The rest of the family were so focused about their own happiness, they would let others be oppressed and persecuted, despite knowing what that feels like.

I respect and admire what Roy was trying to do with this novel. But the lack of connection with the characters made it hard to properly engage with Across Great Divides.

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