The Thin Blue-Yellow Line Between Love and Hate - Anton Eine
AUTHOR: Anton Eine
RATING: A must-read, but I can't quantify it.
In a Nutshell: A horrifying exposé about the life of ordinary Ukrainians after Russia invaded their nation on Feb 24th 2022. Written in the form of a journal and covers the first hundred days of the war. I knew this book would break me; I still read it for the author and for the people of Ukraine; I am now torn apart, much more than what I thought was possible.
Anton Eine might be a new name to many of you. As an indie author who primarily writes in Russian and has his works translated to English, his works are virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. I too hadn’t heard of him until the day I stumbled upon one of his short stories on a website. Since then, I have read a few more of his short fiction and even his full-length sci-fi novel. Fiction is his forte. (He is fabulous at sci-fi.) Whatever I have read of his works, I have enjoyed. Until this book.
The word “enjoy” simply can’t be applied to this memoir. I hated almost every word of it, because my brain refused to believe that this was actually happening. As an avid historical fiction reader, I have read quite a few novels on wars and the barbarities that come along with it. None of those stories prepared me for the reality that the author reveals through this book, none!
"I started writing this book not knowing if I would be able to finish it."
This is how Anton begins this book. He started writing this collection of journal-style essays on a night he couldn't sleep because of the sound of the exploding bombs. Anton makes good use of his skills as a writer, poet and songwriter to present to you a picture of the ground reality in Ukraine for the common citizens. He doesn’t cover the actual battles because, as he says, that’s someone else’s story, someone who is fighting on the frontlines. Anton’s role is to present to us the side we don’t see in the media. He narrates not just his own experiences but also the anecdotes of friends and acquaintances as they struggle to stay alive in times of siege. Moreover, as Anton is father to a three-year-old boy, his narration gets an added layer of poignancy. The way he reveals how he and his wife decided their approach towards talking about the war with their son just broke me. I mean, what kind of a world are we in that a three year old needs to understand what’s war?!
Let me now add my own version of Anton’s sentiment:
"I started *reading* this book not knowing if I would be able to finish it."
I am someone who prefers keeping my head buried in the sand when it comes to topics about extreme brutalities, especially against animals or children. Reading these in fiction itself is a tough task for me. Reading a nonfiction with this kind of material is akin to gutting myself. I can’t tell you how many times I just cried and closed this book, thinking, “I can’t continue; I don’t want to continue.’ But there was a simple fact that made me return to it every time - I was just reading about the atrocities; the people of Ukraine were living with the atrocities.
Anton covers a variety of topics in this collection. Most of the topics are, but obviously, depressing. PTSD, rapes, murders, food shortages, the role of the media (news and social), … As he jumps from topic to topic, sometimes within the same essay, you can feel his passion, his pain, and even his fear for his family. The essays are somewhat rambling at times, showing his intense distress as he trudged ahead with the narration. I don’t know how he found the strength to pen this book. I’m just stunned at his bravery. Writing this book must have been like digging into a fresh wound with a sharp object, over and over again.
As the book covers just the first hundred days of the war, there is a lot that has happened since then. As of 11th December 2022, the war has lasted for 290 days, and still shows no sign of abatement. When the author began this memoir, he surely wouldn’t have known that the new status quo would continue even until December 2022, and God knows how much longer.
To some extent, the book reminded of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. But Anne was a young teenager in the 1940s who was still hopeful of her chances at times. Anton is a man of the 20th century who has seen enough of life to be realistic about the future. As such, this book is much darker than Anne Frank’s diary. Some of the events are so unbelievably gut-wrenching that I have lost almost all faith in humanity. Thankfully, Anton sprinkles enough of happy moments also to show the positive side of people, whether with volunteering efforts in war zones or providing aid to refugees. These are far and few between, but they do help.
At the end of the book, Anton lists out ways by which you can help the people of Ukraine. One of the ways is by purchasing this book, as all proceeds are to be donated to the Ukrainian cause.
If you wish to read a book about what happens to ordinary lives that aren’t ordinary anymore just because of a crazy dictator’s egocentric whims, this book is the one to choose. Recommended, but with a devastated heart.
I don’t think I need to give you a list of content warnings for a nonfiction book about living in an active war zone.
I wish I could leave this book without a rating because my mind is torn over how to evaluate this book. But I consider it a must-read, despite the traumatic effect it had on me. As such, I’ll just hit the highest rating wherever I can to give it a good chance of getting more readers.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author at my request and these are my honest thoughts about it.
The book is also available on Kindle Unlimited.
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