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.
If this weren't a love story, I don't know what the hell is! Paullina Simons utterly gripped my heart from the first page up to the very last, not once letting go. I was in a constant state of breathless anticipation all throughout the book (and what a long book it was, indeed!) This is an amazing piece of literature and I am so glad that I decided to read it. Despite its length (I don't usually read books this long), the pages flew by quickly and I didn't even realize that I was almost done until the last few pages.
I adored this book! It's beautiful. It's exciting. It's poignant. It's transcendent. Well, let me break it down for you, guys.
WHAT I LOVED ABOUT THE BRONZE HORSEMAN
1. WORLD WAR II
I've got a confession to make. This was the first historical fiction novel that I actually read all the way through. I'm not much of a fan of historical fiction so I was kind of hesitant to start reading THE BRONZE HORSEMAN. I'm pretty sure you can also feel the frustration whenever you start what you thought was a good book and had to stop reading in the middle because it was too insufferable or something? Well, that was how I used to feel about historical fiction novels. I can't keep my eyes open long enough to finish them. Well, imagine my surprise when I realized that I was just waiting for the right book to come along... and here comes THE BRONZE HORSEMAN in all it's glory to redeem this genre in my eyes.
The desperation and the darkness that came over the world during the Second World War seemed like the best and worst setting for a love story. Best in the sense that you know there's going to be a lot of drama and tension and heart-wrenching passion. Worst because you also know that there's also a very high likelihood that somehow, someway, it's all gonna end in tragedy.
The Second World War is one of darkest and lowest points in human history and I loved how the love that permeated between Tania and Alexander somehow lit a beacon of hope and love for their part of the world (I can't believe how many time I used the word love in that sentence). It served as such a pivotal role in the book. It wasn't just a setting, it was practically another character! A villain. The antagonist who tries to rip the two lovers apart. That's one of the reasons why I think it's so tragic. A love triangle would have been a piece of cake (although there's still a very PAINFUL love-triangle in THE BRONZE HORSEMAN, lemme tell you). Back to the point... punching the competition for your beloved's heart would have been so much easier. But who would Tatiana and Alexander punch when the thing that's tearing them apart is something as intangible as WORLD WAR II?! As a reader, I could feel the desperation between Tatiana and Alexander. As much as they wanted to be together, the war was always trying to pull them apart. Which, I think, was so beautifully sad.
This is also the first book I've read that was mainly set in Russia. I enjoyed immersing myself in Russian culture, especially during the time of WWII. I was reading up on communism, about Stalin... basically, I was trying to learn all that I could about the context. I loved how THE BRONZE HORSEMAN opened my eyes and allowed me to embrace a new culture, how it drove me to think as the characters would, how it moved me to see how the characters would have lived then and there. I was grateful for the learning journey and I learned so much about Russia just because of THE BRONZE HORSEMAN.
3. THE MAIN CHARACTERS
4. THE STRUGGLE
Alexander and Tatiana's struggle to be together was so painful. The fact that they knew they loved each other and teh fact that they knew they were MEANT for each other made their choices all teh more difficult. They were both changed the moment they met on the street that faithful day but that doesn't mean that the people they were before that moment were gone. The Pre-Tatiana Alexander and Pre-Alexander Tatiana both had loyalties that come first before their won happiness. They owe other people... one by blood, one by a sense of gratitude. They cannot forsake their other selves for the sake of pursuing a love that was deemed impossible the moment Tatiana brought Alexander to her home in Fifth Soviet. In the end, their choices still defined what became of them... including the choices they have made together.
I have nothing else to say about her writing besides the fact that I think it's absolutely phenomenal. The tone, the pace... it all worked so beautifully together to create a tapestry of love and hate, of hope and desperation, of loyalty and betrayal, of eternal sunshine and eternal darkness. THE BRONZE HORSEMAN is a transcendent story of two people finding each other in the most desperate of circumstances and fighting tooth and nail to keep each other despite of the forces that threaten to tear them apart... forever.
I loved every single second of reading THE BRONZE HORSEMAN.