Sunflowers Beneath the Snow  by Teri M Brown

Topical, moving, recent historical fiction – Ukraine

A mother, daughter and granddaughter tell their stories of growing up in Ukraine and living through being part of the Soviet Union, achieving independence for Ukraine and onwards.  Although there is plenty of hardship endured by these three strong women, this is a story of love, survival and family.   It is also the story of a people, and their country.   In the Author Note at the end, Teri M Brown says “the basic premise of the story is true”.

This moving and powerful story takes place between 1973 and 2016, moving through 3 generations of one family.  Ivanna’s husband, is trying to bring back the “old traditional Ukraine” by carrying out small acts of defiance, not realising the enormous changes these deeds will bring.  Ivanna works hard to provide food and comfort as we see life through her eyes during the hardships of living in Ukraine during the Soviet Union era.  We then move to Ivanna’s daughter Yevtsye’s, and later onto Ionna’s, the granddaughter of Ivanna. 

Through this moving tale the reader is given the political history of Ukraine – just enough to understand what is going on, and provide context.  The details of everyday life including food available, shopping, how a child’s name is chosen (in this family anyway) and the realities of achieving freedom from the Soviet Union are all included in this fast moving story.  The writing is easy to read, even if some of the contents are hard hitting.  These 3 women are ordinary people, living everyday lives but their story has a depth and resonance that has got me telling so many people about this book, and these characters.    

5*s from me as I have learnt so much about Ukraine and its people from this book, whilst being  completely involved with the characters from start to end.  The lives of these people were (are) hard, but this is a story that needs to be heard, and one that will stay with me a very long time.  Outstanding book, and I recommend it highly.     

My rating:  5 out of 5

Published: December 2021

Publisher: Atmosphere Press 

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