Home > Senior Fiction, Young Adult > Gingerbread by Robert Dinsdale.

Gingerbread by Robert Dinsdale.

February 25, 2014

gingerbreadGingerbread by Robert Dinsdale. Pub.HarperCollins,  2014.

What a stunning novel this is, with two of the toughest, yet vulnerable characters I have met in young adult literature.

It is a novel set in the forested country of Belarus, where the winters are harsh and the summers hot and full of biting insects.

The novel starts in winter when young boy Alek goes with his mother to a tenement building in the city to stay with his Papa. The mother is dieing of cancer and papa nurses her until death. She wishes her ashes to be scattered in the forest and Alek demands that papa take him into the forest to do so.

Papa is very reluctant to go to the forest and at night after boiled milk he tells Alek or the boy as he becomes known, stories of the forest witch Baba Yaga.

When they do go to the forest papa is overcome and cannot go back and the two live the winter in a run down cottage. At night papa tells stories of the forest, how people lived there to escape the Winter King and how men were sent to the Gulag.

The stories are a mix of make believe and truth of papa’s own life experience under the rule of Stalin. Papa and Alek  become the wild child and wild man of the forest.

In summer Alek and his Papa travel through the forest living off the land but papa has a terrible accident and Alek nurses him and tends to his terrible injuries. When they return to the cottage it has been renovated and inhabited by Elenya and her parents. Elenya befriends Alek and as their friendship grows the truth about papa emerges.

This sparks off a series of incidents that are just hypnotic and shocking. The ending is astonishing and hopeful, but nothing is ever resolved. Can history ever be resolved.

Brilliantly written in language that I would call lofty. Definitely young adult and adult. A story of survival, a story about the casualties of history and of life. Alek is a brilliant boy.

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