17 January 2010
Review: Paullina Simons - The Bronze Horseman
~purchase a copy here~
Mass Market Paperback: 912 pages
Publisher: HarperTorch (October 1, 2002)
Genre: Historical fiction
Book Origin: Personal Library
Leningrad 1941: the white nights of summer illuminate a city of fallen grandeur whose beautiful palaces and stately avenues speak of a different age, when Leningrad was known as St Petersburg.
Two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha, share the same bed, living in one room with their brother and parents. It is a hard, impoverished life, yet the Metanovs know many who are not as fortunate as they.
The family routine is shattered on 22 June 1941 when Hitler invades Russia. For the Metanovs, for Leningrad and for Tatiana, life will never be the same again. On the fateful day, Tatiana meets a brash young officer named Alexander.
Tatiana and her family suffer as Hitler's army advances on Leningrad, and the Russian winter closes in. With bombs falling and the city under siege, Tatiana and Alexander are drawn to each other in an impossible love. It is a love that could tear Tatiana's family apart, a love that carries a secret that could mean death for anyone who hears it.
Confronted on the one hand by Hitler's unstoppable war machine, and on the other by a Soviet system determined to crush the human spirit, Tatiana and Alexander are pitted against the very tide of history, at a turning point in the century that made the modern world.
With the Second World War breathing down the neck of Russia two people meet. One look is what it took to let them know inside their hearts it was the other they were meant for. But with a war raging against Leningrad’s city limits and events forcing them to make choices, the chance to love becomes as rare as the chance to peace for the people of Russia.
Alexander and Tatiana will have to find out if the sacrifices are worth the love that they would gain….
THE BRONZE HORSEMAN was my first encounter with Paullina Simons work and all I can say is that I will never look at Russia the same nor will the characters I met in this novel ever be forgotten. I do not easily pick up a novel of well over 600 pages, but sometimes a story demands to be read and through a recommendation I found myself introduced to Alexander, an officer in the Red Army and Tatiana the youngest daughter within a family living in Leningrad. Because of the vast set up it took me a while to be grabbed by the story but it is Alexander that held me spellbound from his first appearance in THE BRONZE HORSEMAN. His very nature appealed to me, wanting to know his past and present for the secrets clung to him like a second skin. It is the contrast that Alexander and Tatiana provide that intrigued me so much at first. He knows what life has to offer and Tatiana is the baby in the family and well protected, though she still possesses a spirit and strength. It soon becomes very clear that they have to overcome obstacles and this is written with a strong affinity for emotions. The author creates a life like relationship in a war torn country which had such an impact on them and the world around them.
Coming from the Netherlands myself I grew up with all the stories, both from school as from my grandparents, I never heard much about the involvement of Russia but with painstakingly clear colors Paullina Simons paints an overwhelming picture of not hunger but famine, of not being scared but feeling mortal fear. Of how some people rise to the occasion and some cower away in a corner, of loss and hope but most of all about love finding a way and survival. I was well in to a hundred pages along and still couldn’t completely find my niche but then there was this scene planted in my mind’s eye by the author of Alexander carrying the injured Tatiana for 6 km to the next train station to get her to safety. Such a small gesture but catalyzed by such profound love. It hit home with me and from that moment on I spent every waking moment wrapped up in their world. It is also the chain of events that kept me on the edge of my seat hoping, yearning and rooting with every obstacle they had to overcome.
The chemistry between Alexander and Tatiana is tangible from their first moment. That precious first look or first touch, that expresses more than a hundred words, it is like witnessing two halves encountering each other unexpectedly but irrevocably connecting. Forging a bond together in those first frail hours that essentially holds all that is to come. Their love is one that pulled at my heart strings and engulfed me with their sensuous passion but most of all their actions and feelings are so recognizable that I could not help myself but relate to their struggles and the choices they made. I feel that it is a talent all on its own if an author can keep a reader spellbound for so many pages and after that still leave the reader hungry for more.
This is first and foremost a novel focused on two people, Tatiana and Alexander. They have to endure through much, still it is their feelings, their hearts, in all facets that bring this story to life. Every character, from Tatiana’s family to Alexander’s fellow soldiers and leading commanders, each added to the intense experience of this novel but had a function of solely making Alexander’s and Tatiana’s love soar to greater heights. I think that everyone will feel a range of emotions upon reading THE BRONZE HORSEMAN. It is in the darkest times when one needs to hold onto even the slightest bit of light and Leningrad does have such dark times in the Second World War. It is a formidable background with Russian endearments, food and authentic words to make it all feel more real. And with that, Paullina Simons transport you back to a time and place where the reader meets all these incredible people. War can bring out the best and worst in people and so I got the meet them, each with their own reasons for their actions, each with their own story to tell. The riveting conclusion to THE BRONZE HORSEMAN is one that immediately invites you to open up the second book TATIANA AND ALEXANDER just to know how it all progresses.
This novel has been published a few years back now and only reached me a few weeks ago but I know now that THE BRONZE HORSEMAN, the first entry in this world renowned trilogy will never leave my shelves again. This is one of those novels that will stand the test of times!