The Road of Bones by Anne Fine

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The Road of Bones by Anne Fine

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A shocking story of life under a totalitarian regime that doesn't give any easy answers. Yuri is a survivor, but survival comes at a terrible cost. Powerfully told.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: May 2007
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0552554930

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Since the Czarist regime was overthrown, the revolution seems to have lost its way. Five Glorious Leaders have become just one Glorious Leader. Food is scarce. Work is harsh. Sacrifices are unending. Dissent is crushed.

Yuri is an independent thinker. Under Father Trohim's regime, independent thinking is not a talent to be nurtured; it's a dangerous indulgence. Just one wrong word at the wrong time could bring catastrophe crashing down not only upon the head of the speaker, but also upon the heads of his entire family. Small wonder then, that Yuri's parents say very little and hush any stray word from either their son or his loose-lipped grandmother.

But it's only a matter of time before Yuri says something he shouldn't and becomes one of the disappeared; one of those on whose bones the road of the revolution is being built.

Based on Stalin's systematic purges of huge swathes of the Russian peasant class, The Road of Bones is both gripping and remorseless. It doesn't let up for a moment, even to its very last page. Yuri is a survivor, but the cost is great. Each time he cheats death, he loses a little more of his humanity. It's a relentless road and there's no turning back. From the moment he goes on the run, the challenges come thick and fast as the horrors of the regime are revealed one after the other. From the empty farms and the famines, to the vicious beatings by the secret police to the forced labour camps in the salt mines of Siberia, Fine lays it all on the line.

It's easy to read and, as the best books so often are, difficult to forget. The Road of Bones has a moral complexity that will challenge its young readers - this is no simple story of a young hero triumphing over evil. It is the story of how horribly easy it is to terrorise an entire population and how easy it is to find oneself terrorised. It's the story of the way in which the fight against injustice also, agonisingly, itself corrupts. And it's also the story of one boy's powerful instinct to survive.

The Road of Bones is a startling achievement, not least for its refusal to wrap it all up into a neat and tidy happy ending. It will leave its young readers with a great deal to think about. Most children will know of the Holocaust, but few will realise how many perished during Stalin's purges. This alone is a story worth telling. Cleverly though, The Road of Bones also makes its warnings contemporary, timeless even. For what good to us is history if the lessons from it do not inform our future?

My thanks to the publishers for sending this challenging book.

Anne Holm's I Am David also tells the story of a young boy on the run from the authorities, while Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful talks about the terrible injustices the state sometimes perpetrates on essentially innocent individuals.

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Buy The Road of Bones by Anne Fine at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Road of Bones by Anne Fine at


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