“A magnificent epic of love, war and Russia from the international bestselling author of TULLY and ROAD TO PARADISE Leningrad 1941: the white nights of summer illuminate a city of fallen grandeur whose palaces and 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. The routine of their hard impoverished life is shattered on 22 June 1941 when Hitler invades Russia. For the Metanov family, for Leningrad and particularly for Tatiana, life will never be the same again. On that fateful day, Tatiana meets a brash young man named Alexander. The family suffers 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 inexorably to each other, but theirs is a love that could tear Tatiana’s family apart, and at its heart lies a secret that could mean death to anyone who hears it. Confronted on the one hand by Hitler’s vast 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.”
Book Review: ★★★★★★
This book is a great example of why I LOVE to read historical fiction, and why I am NOT such a great fan of romance novels. At 650 pages, this thrillingly engrossing work of torture is both fun to read, and frustrating all at the same time. Even the writing is both amazingly well done, and horrifyingly crafted into a read that keeps the reader swinging not only from suspense, but also desperation for the story to move on at times.
The setting, and historical backdrop of this story is an amazingly well done presentation of the struggles of Leningrad during the Nazi siege of the city. With breathtakingly evocative images presented in horrifying detail of the simple struggle to survive, as this city was slowly starved to death during the brutal winter, in the middle of daily bombings and chaos — from the beginning the reader simply cannot walk away. Simons has developed a real feel for the painful struggle to survive during this tragic, and heroic time in Russian history. She has also given the reader a wonderful feel for the catch 22 of the residents of this city — caught between the oppressive regime of Stalin’s NKVD, and the Nazi’s violently prejudicial fanatics. The feeling of what it was like to live while being oppressively haunted from the inside, and systematically destroyed from outside is a living experience in this story that will stay with the reader for quite some time.
The characterization of Tatiana and Alexander are also very unique, and powerfully compelling. The concept of a wanted American working in the Red Army as a decorated military officer keeps the reader well attached to the dilemma of Alexander, and his unusual predicament of a precarious position. Add to that a best friend that is blackmailing him into defecting, and the love of his life working as a magnet to keep him exactly where he is — living a carefully crafted lie, and you have the ground work for a story that keeps pulling the reader in.
Where it finally became too much for me, however, was when Simons finally allowed the romance side of the story to completely take over the natural flow of it all. The obvious, and even overwhelming intrusion of the love triangle in the early part of the story was beyond frustrating. It was forced, and came across as the stuff of cookie cutter writing in a melodrama style. At times I almost considered the whole situation farcical and even offensive to my intelligence. Unfortunately, when Alexander and Tatiana finally do come together it didn’t improve. I felt like at that point the only thing Simons could think of to write about was sex, and the story was completely lost for no less than 100 to 150 pages. If Simon’s had simply stayed with the original development of the historical fiction line, this story could have been amazing! As it was, because of the romance intrusion, I felt like in the end I had been through a battle of my own, just trying to get through. And the ending didn’t help — after everything this amazing couple went through, I just felt like the fatalistic undercurrent of this story finally took over, and left the reader on a huge downer of an ending. And I realize that this is only the first book in a trilogy. But at the end of this one Simons has so far to go that I am almost afraid to read the next two.
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I agree with you! This book would have been absolutely wonderful if it weren’t for the 100+ sex pages. I actually skimmed through much of it. I was disappointing and tarnished the book. I did read the two following books as well as her (Tatiana’s cookbook) in “Tatiana’s Table.” I don’t fully remember the two following books, obviously not as big of a standout as this book. I just found your blog and really enjoying it! You review my type of books!
I am so glad to hear that I wasn’t alone in the things that disappointed me about this one. And I am so glad to have you stop by. I love having plenty of people to discuss books with! Thank you for your comments and input. You have a wonderful blog yourself — and I to find others that share my passion. Happy reading and hope to hear from you soon.
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Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious. — George Orwell, 1984