The international bestseller, The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons, reenacts the horrors of the German World War II attack on Russia and the fates of star-crossed lovers.
Take a Russian family of five living in one cramped, narrow room. Add an officer in the Red Army with a secret who seems to play between two devoted sisters. Dose heavily with Hitler’s blistering push into Leningrad. Set it in a cold winter with food rationing, bombings, deprivation and desperation. Sprinkle liberally with steamy scenes of forbidden desire. Add a favored son lost in the war. Setting for a page-turning epic novel? Yes.
Alexander and Tatiana are bonded not only by love, but by fidelity to Russia evidenced by their esteem of Pushkin’s poem, “The Bronze Horseman.” Their love story is engrossing. The addition of a secret in Alexander’s life adds an enticing twist. They dance around the fulfillment of a passion they deny themselves because of Tatiana’s loyalty toward her sister, Dasha, who is in love with Alexander.
Prolific author Simons, born and raised in St. Petersburg, displays a great love and knowledge of her setting. There is immediacy to her writing, and she delivers a rip tide epic that will delight lovers of this ilk. The reader is vividly transported into war torn Russia within twenty pages, and the momentum builds quickly. You will become emotionally connected to the characters and keep turning pages to learn more of their fates.
No novel is without its faults. The dialogue here, although fast paced, is often repetitious. The siege seems to overshadow the development of the main characters a bit. Many descriptions of potatoes, onions and other foodstuffs could have been cut. The love story seems drawn out unnecessarily. All in all The Bronze Horseman is a heartrending, compelling novel for a reader willing to sift through all the detail. For this reader, it was worth it.
Why review a book published in 2001? The Bronze Horseman is part one of a trilogy. Tatiana and Alexander, part two, tells us of the lovers’ struggles as one believes the other dead. One flees to America. The other is on trial for treason. Book three of the series, The Summer Garden: A Love Story, releases June 21, 2011. Don’t miss it.
(Read more about the trilogy here: Paullina Simons at Random House.)