The Bronze Horseman book review

The Bronze Horseman
by Paullina Simons
paperback
Sept 8, 2009
810 pages
my rating: 5 out 5 stars

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Synopsis via Goodreads

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.


So it turns out, that when you read an 810-page book, you have a lot to talk about. I think this is longer than what I usually write out. I also feel like I could have kept going.


My thoughts

I loved this book so much, I never wanted to stop reading it, if I wasn’t reading it then I was thinking about reading it. The writing was beautiful and the story would just reach out and grab onto me. Every so often I would feel the need to stop and just think about the book for a minute.

I often felt the need to think about how World War Two affected Russia and the people who lived there. It forced me to think about everything that they would need to do just to survive.

The war brought many horrors that the people of Russia had to fight to survive. There were the expected struggles that would happen to a city under siege. The destruction of the city, which was being bombed daily. A food shortage, again that can expect when a city is under a blockade, there’s so food coming in. People would starve to death. There there was the winter, Russian winters are harsh and unforgiving if you don’t have a heat source. It was difficult to read about how people were freezing to death in their homes and on the street. There were some people desperate enough for survival that they turned to cannibalism.

The worst horror, in my opinion, was seeing people lose the will to live. But at the same time, what was there that was worth living for? Tatiana had love and determination that fueled her urge for survival. But for other people what did they have to look forward to? Food rations were reduced again and again. At one point, bread consisted of sawdust and cardboard and sold to people at outrageous costs.

A few times I tried to imagine myself going through some of the scenarios that Tatiana survived. Could I have handled it any better? Could I have survived any of it? It took a long time until I could accept that I wouldn’t have lived through any of it. Then I had to think about that for a while.

This book wasn’t a high priority for me to read. It was at the bottom of my TBR list. But I chose this book because I figured it would satisfy a few literary cravings.
I wanted to read a book set in Russia and to read a historical fiction novel set during any of the World Wars. I love history and love reading from the different point of views of the countries that were in the war.
Finally, I was feeling the need for a romantic story and the passionate love affair between Tatiana and Alexander definitely satisfied that craving.

It was interesting to see how Russia handled the war, especially in the media. Stalin had so much of the news about the dire situations of the war withheld from the citizens. They weren’t informed of how fast the Germans were advancing into Russia until they were practically knocking on the front door. I couldn’t help but wonder how many people could have survived if they had been better informed. It was shocking to see the mass denial and reluctance the characters seemed to feel during this. Tatiana’s family were so far into denial it was insane. Her mother and father didn’t want to believe that things were bad and getting worse. They shouldn’t have sent her brother away and should have made stocking up on food and other supplies a higher priority. It was frustrating to see them not taking the war seriously.

It was heartbreaking to see the abuse that Tatiana received from her parents. For telling them things they didn’t want to hear, or for the truth that they didn’t want to believe. It was awful seeing the abuse that she received in the first place just for being born it seemed like. She did a lot to ensure that her family survived and they were never grateful for it. They criticized her for making the smartest choices. I hate to say that I was happy when her father was removed from the picture, but I was. He and Dasha drove me crazy.

I wanted to reach into the pages and just slap Dasha so many times. She was so oblivious and self-absorbed. I hated her blindness of the world around her, and how she never saw how Tatiana suffering. She struck me as the most ungrateful of Tatiana’s efforts to get her alive. I also wanted to slap her cousin Marina as well. Not only did she try to throw Tatiana and Alexander under the bus a few times, she was always eating all their food! I couldn’t believe that! I realize that she was desperate and hungry, but still. Tatiana and her family took you in, they didn’t have to and yet you ate most of the food, screwing them over.

OH! speaking of horrible people. Dimitri. I hated him. So much! He’s just awful. Just a self-absorbed asshole who only looks out for himself. He definitely got what he deserved.

It was heartbreaking to see Tatiana’s innocence destroyed by the war. Having to take care of her family forced her to grow up so fast and to be more jaded and cynical of the world around her.

One of my favorite moments was seeing Tatiana being afraid of mice, that was so humanizing to see. This woman walked through a city being bombed, she faced down people trying to mug her and jumped off a train. How can she be afraid of mice after that? It made her more real to know that she could be afraid of something so small.

Now for Tatiana and Alexander. I loved them together, but I hated their situation and how they handled everything. They had a burning passion and such a sweet love for each other. I loved seeing two people together who would do anything for the other. They gave each other everything that they had to help the other. It was endearing to see and I think that’s what helps to make a great love story.

I was so paranoid for them whenever they were talking about America or about speaking English in public. I would worry about the NKVD, the secret police, overhearing their conversation and arresting them for treason. The NVKD wouldn’t need proof, just suspicion.

I loved how much this book forced me to stop and think about the events happening. I would highly recommend this book to anyone. Do you like historical fiction? Read it. Do you like romance stories? Read it. Do you like to read? Read it.

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