First let me start off by saying that this book is long. It took me almost two weeks to get through it. That being said, I am a single mom who works 40 hours weekly. Usually books with 500+ pages sit on my shelf unread for… like… ever. BUT, I am a Russian history addict and I am pretty certain that Russians are the best at telling heart breaking tales of love. I am really a sucker for a good love story that doesn’t follow the normal love story-telling standards.
The book starts on the day that Joseph Stalin announces to his people of the Soviet Union that the Nazi Germans have attacked Russia without any notice.
The setting: Then known as the city of Leningrad (St. Petersburg). A small communal apartment occupied by 17 year old Tatiana, her twin brother, her sister Dasha, her parents and grandparents.
The story is based around Tatiana and Alexander, a Lieutenant in the Red Army. There is an inescapable desire shared between Tatiana and Alexander from the moment they meet, but Dasha, her sister, is in love with Alexander… as they met before Tatiana met him. So there lies the problem; they love the same man, but it is Tatiana that Alexander truly loves. Tatiana won’t break her sister’s heart, and she makes Alexander promise that he won’t either. Her loyalty to her sister creates an impossible obstacle for her and Alexander. As the war gets closer to Leningrad, Tatiana’s love for Alexander grows, and so does Dasha’s. Alexander continues to be with Dasha all the while fighting to stand up for poorly treated Tatiana.
“Love is,” she repeated slowly… “when he is hungry and you feed him. Love is knowing when he is hungry.”
“I love you breathlessly, my amazing man.”
Between the cold harsh Russian winter, the war, terribly low food rations and watching idly as Alexander is forced to promise love to her sister, how can Tatiana survive? How can Alexander survive while he’s off fighting the Nazi’s wondering if his Tatiana is OK? Could either of them survive their forbidden love?
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you much more without some serious spoilage. So I really encourage you to read the book.
For such a long novel, it is pretty fast paced. It was a little repetitious and I found myself skipping over a few long-winded descriptions. However, Paullina Simons did such an excellent job on taking the reader to Leningrad. I had a very clear picture of the scenery; of the city as bombs fell all around them. The dialogue was incredibly realistic. You can almost feel the hunger and the ice cold air as you read. I felt so connected to Tatiana; I felt her pain and when Alexander spoke to Tatiana, I could hear his heartfelt voice and feel his love for her. Simons also does an awesome job letting the reader get to know the characters on just the right levels needed for the story.
It is truly a heart breaking tale of star-crossed love, loyalty and life-threatening secrets. This novel is definitely worth getting through the very few minor faults it has. 5 stars from me!