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Book Review: Breathe by Elena Kravchenko

On Boxing Day 2004, the world woke to the devastating news of a massive Tsunami that had hit Thailand. Today, Dave shares a book review of Breathe by Elena Kravchenko, a fictional novel based on this tragic event. Before Dave shares his thoughts on the book, released this month, here’s the book notes.

Book Cover Notes

December 26, 2004: The Indian Ocean tsunami has flooded great swathes of western Thailand.

Carl’s best friend and his wife are missing. He travels from London to Thailand to discover what has happened to them, only to learn there is nothing one man can do in the devastation the wave left behind. What started as an impulsive quest ends up with him examining the very essence of his being.

A unique combination of an action-packed quest for truth and a philosophical exploration of life’s deeper meaning, Breathe is a poignant, tense and intelligently written story that will have you contemplating its meaning and message long after you have reached the final page.

Book Review Breathe by Elena Kravchenko - Book Cover
Book Review Breathe by Elena Kravchenko -Blog Tour Banner

Dave’s thoughts

Breathe by author Elena Kravchenko, is based on real life events.  It tells the story of Carl, a career focussed Swede working in the financial sector in London. His carefully planned world is upended by the news of an unfolding tragedy of epic proportions.  He’s about to enjoy Christmas back with his parents back home in Sweden  when he learns of the massive Tsunami that’s hit Thailand.  His best friend from Uni, Kristoffer is on honeymoon there with his pregnant wife Eva.  As the devastation is revealed in the news, Carl, unable to get word of his friends, turns his back on a big work contract, and possibly his career, to fly to Thailand to search for them.  

The story touches briefly on the impact on before and during the Tsunami for some of the residents at the Golden Budda Beach resort, a small Island just off the mainland.  Most of the impact is revealed through the eyes of Carl as he arrives and begins his quest.  The story telling really brings to life (and death!) how an event lasting seconds can wipe out so much.  As well as the devastation to property, the environment and the infrastructure, worst of all is the devastation to the lives and families of those impacted by such as event.

Perhaps though less obvious is the loss of order and governance when the normal control systems have gone, or are overwhelmed, the lack of response from governments, leaving local “best endeavours” to cope in situations never before seen. Carl is one of many searching for loved ones.  No-one was prepared for so many dead and injured and as many are battered, covered in mud and partially clothed, identification is difficult.  Carl, the cautious numbers man, finds himself taking increasingly desperate irrational risks in order to get to the Island his friends were on, that has been all but flattened.

Carl meets many others who help him, either through generosity or though a shared goal.  As the death toll rises and the full impact is revealing, Carl starts to learn more about relationships and what is important.  The descriptions of the aftermath really bring home how lucky we are with what we have, not least a home and security.

Book Review Summary of Breathe

I enjoyed the book, quaffing it in about three days – which is the sign of a good book.  The fact that it’s based on real life experiences gives it added poignancy.  Most of us are aware of this Tsunami, but I don’t think the true magnitude of the devastation is appreciated.  We remember that 6000+ died in 9/11 when two buildings fell, but why has there been less recognition of the 230,000 who died as a result of this event on Boxing Day 2004?  

This is a book that educates in the storytelling. It has made me think about governments, media reporting, the importance of relationships, how I might react to situations and how could I be a better person to others.

In spite of the dark subject matter, the book is easy to read and a tense, engaging “enjoyable” journey.

A quote referenced in the book particularly resonated with me. It’s not only relevant to the situations in the book but is a good life lesson for us all.:

 “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”  

Where to Buy The Book

Amazon UK

Further Book Info:
  • Published Date: 13th April 2021 (Paperback + eBook)
  • Publisher: Matador
  • Page Count: 408

Notes From The Author

Growing up

I grew up in Kiev, Ukraine at the end of Soviet era, small enough not to fully understand the changes which swept all over my country but big enough to remember before and after. I remember my father asking me, what is the capital of your country? Moscow, I said. His eyes filled with bitterness. ‘It’s Kiev. Kiev!’ he shouted at me. That was not true, I thought, that is not what they taught us at school, but I felt too small to argue with him.

Author photo - Elena Kravchenko
Book Review of Breathe by Touring Tales Books
Author photo – Elena Kravchenko

After Lenin’s portrait was taken down in our classroom, my years in school I mostly remember for being self-conscious about being tall. Very tall in fact, the tallest girl in the school. Hiding, spending a lot of time at home. I read books that took me to the worlds I thought I could only dream of going to. And then the coin flipped and being tall and skinny was appreciated. I changed from studying at university to distance learning. Leaving for Paris on a one-way ticket to become a model.

There were highs and lows, but mostly there was a lot of travelling. I lived a peripatetic life in many capitals in all the continents. Some cities became home for a while and some I just passed through.

The modelling years finished and I completed my Masters degree in Art and Business. I worked for a while at Sotheby’s, the auction house, in London. A cosmopolitan hub where every one of my friends came from different corner of the world. Each with vastly different backgrounds, stories, pursuits and visions of tomorrow. I felt that I fitted right in with this motely band of gypsies.

Every year, I went to my husband’s summer house in the North of Sweden. The pine trees and birches, soft bright green moss, the smell of dry grass, hare bells and red clover in the meadow reminded me of my grandparents’ home where as a child I was sent for long summer months. But it was only when my first son was born, I finally felt the true meaning of home – it’s where my heart was, it was in front of me. Last year, we left London and settled in the Chilterns. Where I began a new chapter of my life, planting my dream garden and working on my next book.

Writing Breathe was a long journey – challenging and at times rewarding and yet sad.

In December 2004, I was in Thailand, planning to spend Christmas and New Year at a friend’s house in Phuket. At the last moment, I changed my mind and left. So I never met ‘Kristoffer’ and ‘Eva’. I wish I did, because I heard so much about them from ‘Carl’ – the book is inspired by his story.

In 2012, I went to remote Koh Prah Thong and by pure accident met Kimina and JP. They were tsunami survivors and owners of one of the bungalows at the resort. Returning for the first time to the island since the wave devastated it. They met Kristoffer and Eva, and they remembered meeting Carl in Kurabury. Together, we kayaked into an endless maze of the mangrove creek until somehow my kayak turned upside down and I fell into the murky waters. As I tried to get into a canoe, I scratched my shoulders on the thorns of a plant, but at that time the wound looked minor.

Back in London, in a matter of days it swelled to a size of an orange. Because it didn’t respond to any antibiotic treatments, I had surgery on my shoulder. The samples of my tissues were tested and studied and almost five months. Later my doctor finally admit they were unable to match it with any known infection. I felt all these events were like beads that lay in my hand waiting to be threaded into a story ­– the story of Breathe.

Where to find Elena Online

Instagram | Facebook

Blog Tour Organised by

Random Things Tours

Thanks to Anne @randomttours for inviting me on the tour. Also thanks to Elena Kravchenko and @Matadorbooks for my copy of the book for an honest review.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Dave’s book review of Breathe by Elena Kravchenko

Miche xxx

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