An epic tale of love, family, betrayal, loss and heartbreak set against the backdrop of Russia during the Second World War. A tale of two star crossed lovers who due to outside circumstances are forced to be apart and yet are inexplicably drawn together and must face all odds in order to survive. Sigh. This is probably one of my favourite books of all time. That is how strongly I feel about it. Paullina Simons has ultimately created the most stunning piece of literature I have come across. How can I even begin to describe to you all what this book means to me. It is a rare feat that an author can create such an emotive story, so full of history and violence, pain and suffering that keeps the reader wanting more and more. That is what is achieved in this book. Perhaps it is my love for the era of the Second World War that influences me, regardless I dare anyone to read this and not feel such a connection.
Set in Leningrad on the eve if the German invasion of Russia, the life of 16 year old Tatiana Metanov is about to change forever. Tatiana has lived a normal life up to now. Tatiana’s family, her parents, brother and sister, all live in a one bedroomed apartment and are content with the life they have. Tatiana has never known any different than the love of her family. When her sister announces she’s in love, Tatiana is nothing but happy for her. However familial bliss is short lived in this novel. All of this changes in a day. On the eve of her 17th birthday, Tatiana, in her last day of childhood throws on a fancy dress and goes out venturing around the city. It is while sitting on a bench innocently eating an ice cream cone that Tatiana crosses path with Alexander, a soldier in the Russian Red Army. Despite the age gap, these two charming characters become enamoured with each other. But alas, all is not as it seems. A major obstacle stands in their way, Alexander is in fact, Tatiana’s sister’s boyfriend and the man her sister declared herself in love with. However despite trying to stay away from each other, their love proves insurmountable. Alexander also confides in Tatiana regarding his troubled past, which brings the two closer and closer together.
Unfortunately Germany invades Russia and events become more and more desperate for these star-crossed lovers. The beautiful city of Leningrad is destroyed, food rationing is becoming more and more difficult to attain due to the German Blockade. Alexander does what he can to provide food rations to the Metanovs, but life becomes positively hopeless. Suspicion is cast on Alexander’s background and Disease and starvation become commonplace. Neighbours Tatiana once knew no longer exist, despite all this Alexander and Tatiana try to cling on to the one thing that can help them survive….each other. This is what is so achingly beautiful in this novel, amongst ruins, disease and death, their love for each other never wavers.They are two halves of a whole, a ying and yang so to speak, and one can not exist without the other.
The plot encompasses everything a great novel should. Love, adventure, suspense and history! The characters are intriguing, Tatiana is a warm and loveable character who will risk anything to save her loved ones, however this can get a tad frustrating at times as she is willing to sacrifice her own happiness to make those around her happy, much to Alexander’s annoyance. Alexander is the hero everyone dreams about and is a constant throughout the story.
I would also like to point out that this is not a happy novel! Do not approach this without having a huge box of Kleenex at hand. It is utterly depressing at times and just when you think Alexander and Tatiana can truly achieve the bliss they so deserve, more and more obstacles are thrown in their path. Despite all this I can promise you, you will not be disappointed. Paullina Simons is a talented author and this book is definitely one of those books that I will read at least three times a year.
And so, I challenge you my avid readers, to dare to dislike this book, I would find it quite impossible myself.
The Avid Reader 🙂