Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

From Amazon:
Set in her native St. Petersburg, Russia, Simons's novel focuses on a WWII love affair. As the story opens, Tatiana, the youngest member of the Metanova family, is just 17; she still shares a bed with her older sister, Dasha. Not long after the country goes to war with Germany, Tatiana meets Alexander, a soldier, and sparks fly. It turns out, however, that Alexander is the same soldier Dasha has been crowing about. Possessed of a strong sense of family loyalty, and living under conditions that permit no privacy, Tatiana refuses to interfere with her sister's happiness, but the attraction between Tatiana and Alexander proves too powerful. Complicating matters, another soldier, Dimitri, has information that could destroy Alexander, and Dimitri likes Tatiana, too. In order to protect both Dasha's feelings and Alexander's life, the star-crossed lovers become part of a deceptive quadrangle as war intensifies around them. Taking her title from a tragic poem by Alexandr Pushkin, Simons skillfully highlights the ironies of the socialist utopia.

I loved this book! I'd never heard of it, but it was highly recommended to me by many who loved the Outlander series. It's nothing like Outlander, except for the fact it's about two young people, desperately in love, and trying to survive in a war torn period of hell.

The book starts out beautifully. Set in Leningrad, 1941, Tatiana and Alexander meet over ice cream at a bus stop. Right away you fall for Alexander. Tall, handsome, dark haired self assured - he is a soldier in the Red Army. Yes, he has a secret that is soon revealed and it explains why he is different from so many soldiers in the Red Army just as war is declared against Hitler. This is a period of Russia I am not that familiar with. We all know the Doctor Zhivago story, set during the Communist Revolution and WWI, but I just didn't know much about the Battle of Leningrad or even the geography of Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Now, I do! So many descriptions of the city, and the bronze horseman refers to the statue of Peter the Great that is in Leningrad in front of St. Isaac's Cathedral. I find it interesting seeing what life was like under Communist rule under Stalin during the war. Lots of references about the Soviet system, rationing, etc. but the book was not really political, except to point out the injustices of the system and how hard it was to live there during this time.

Some parts of the book seemed endless, their starvation during the long Winter of 1942 in Leningrad was very depressing, especially with all the deaths, yet I couldn't stop reading and it was in my thoughts always. Tatiana is such a survivor, she was such a quiet, strong soul. I really liked her. She let herself be put upon by everyone, and she was by no means anyone who can speak up for herself, but by the end you realize just how much strength and courage she has. One of the endearing parts of this book is that Alexander sees that in her and loves her right away. If only their circumstances were not so tragic. She's lucky to have him, but it's awful she can't because of her sister and the secret he must keep from the slimy Dimitri. Alexander's story of his life and what happens to his parents was heartbreaking and I cried over the flashback of the last time he saw his father. The love story was wonderful between Alexander and Tatiana, the sex was hot joyous and some moments were very memorable between them, but having to hide their love for each other took it's toll. You just wanted to slap them both and tell them to tell the truth to Dasha! Finally, when they have their interlude together, it's a nice respite before the war steps in again. There were so many little beautiful things in this love story - I loved it how he asked her to call him Shura. *sigh* I don't want to spoil what happens for anyone by revealing too much.

This book is the first of a trilogy, and I'm now dying to get my hands on the next, for it's crucial to read it. This first book ends up in the air, you need to find out what happens to Alexander! I highly recommend this book! Not for the faint of heart - it's nearly 900 pages long!


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