The book: The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
Published September 2009 by William Morrow (first published July 17th 2000)
The golden skies, the translucent twilight, the white nights, all hold the promise of youth, of love, of eternal renewal. The war has not yet touched this city of fallen grandeur, or the lives of two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanova, who share a single room in a cramped apartment with their brother and parents. Their world is turned upside down when Hitler’s armies attack Russia and begin their unstoppable blitz to Leningrad.
Yet there is light in the darkness. Tatiana meets Alexander, a brave young officer in the Red Army. Strong and self-confident, yet guarding a mysterious and troubled past, he is drawn to Tatiana—and she to him. Starvation, desperation, and fear soon grip their city during the terrible winter of the merciless German siege. Tatiana and Alexander’s impossible love threatens to tear the Metanova family apart and expose the dangerous secret Alexander so carefully protects—a secret as devastating as the war itself—as the lovers are swept up in the brutal tides that will change the world and their lives forever.
And the review:
About six months ago, my friend Tara recommended I read The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. I added it to my “TBR” list and went on with the other books I needed to read.
But I recently began using the library again (“Yay!” says my wallet), so I requested it and read it last week. It is enormous. That itself was a bit daunting; I’ve become used to reading on my Kindle and not only do I read faster, but I don’t know how big these books are. And it’s silly that I’d find the size of a book intimidating; I read huge books all the time. The Game of Thrones books (yes, I know it’s the Song of Ice and Fire but how many people know that unless they’ve read the books?) and the Outlander books come to mind.
Eventually, I picked it up, and once I did, I couldn’t put it down. We’re talking about “staying up all hours of the night until I can barely hold my eyes open” obsessed. The language is amazing. The descriptions of Leningrad and the surrounding countryside are so vivid you feel like you’re there. And when the heroine, Tatiana’s, family was starving to death, I felt like my own teeth were falling out. I was tired. I felt like I, too, was too weak to get out of bed. When the characters developed TB, I swear I had an asthma attack.
It was a part of history with which I’m not all that familiar. The book takes place in Leningrad during Hitler’s siege of the city in the winter of 1941-1942. The siege actually went on through January of 1943, but so many people died during that first winter, and a few were evacuated, so the second winter was slightly more manageable. But that first winter was brutal. After all domestic animals had been eaten, some residents resorted to cannibalism. Many froze to death, and bodies lined the streets.
You see it all, you feel it all. There were quite a few parts that I thought dragged on too long. Sometimes there’s too much description, or long stretches of repetition. I think it could have been about 2/3 its length. But I skimmed those parts. Most of it moved along pretty quickly and some parts were really intense (I’m trying not to give away too much here). I didn’t like the main characters at first, in fact through a good portion of the book, but somehow I still kept reading. I had to find out what happened. And for me, that’s key.
It’s an epic, historical, tragic, love story and is in a style similar to The Thorn Birds or Gone With the Wind. If you liked those, I would definitely recommend reading this one.