- Page Count: 637
- Release Date: April 2001
- My Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads book description:
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.
I am SO relieved there’s a sequel. I had a feeling this was a new favorite book in the beginning… and even though I wouldn’t put it in that category by the end, it was still an amazing story.
I really feel like I’m talking about 3 separate stories at times because this was so long. So much happened… so here’s a brief overview of this complex plot because I had this book on my shelf forever and didn’t get to it because the description does NOT tell you anything. I mean, I’m going to type half a novel here and probably still not spoil anything big.
The basic plot: Tatiana is an incredibly naive and innocent girl who’s almost 17 and lives in a cramped room in Communist Russia with her grandparents, parents, sister, and brother. She’s told to go to the store to get some food because Germany is invading Russia. She can’t imagine them ever running out of food so she buys ice cream instead and waltzes around town instead. She runs into this soldier named Alexander and it’s basically love at first sight. He helps her back to her home where they discover Tatiana is the sister of the girl he’s been seeing.
Tatiana starts out the story as the world’s biggest martyr & pushover and spends the next 200+ pages sacrificing the guy she loves, her food, and her general well-being so that her sister and family can have what they want and be happy. She convinces Alexander to keep seeing her sister and it’s just this endless ANGST of them being in the same room but unable to look at each other. They still see each other secretly, though. It’s a little ridiculous how mean Tatiana’s family was to her, but I guess it helps put her character in a vulnerable position so Alexander can get angry and defend her when her father beats her etc. A minor dramatic detour happens. Then the siege of Leningrad really gets going and everyone starts dying of starvation.
The best plot device for tension was definitely Alexander’s “friend” Dimitri. He’s a ruthlessly self-serving guy who knows the truth about Alexander’s past (which I won’t spoil) and basically controls him because of that. Dimitri takes whatever Alexander is interested in, so that’s yet another reason why Alexander has to pretend to be totally uninterested in Tatiana. That worked WAY better than the whole sister reason.
So… all of that is just the beginning. The next chunk of the plot can be summed up as:
Then Dimitri gets his plotting into gear, Alexander gets a few more personalities, and Tatiana grows into a seriously tough and capable woman by the end.
I have a few complaints I’ll get to in a minute, but first let me just say this is one of the best WWII stories I’ve read. The whole scope of this love story was pretty impressive. I mean, it’s 800+ pages and I feel like I endured a lengthy battle myself just to get to the end (which may or may not be a good thing). And even though I have no interest in ever going to Russia, I have a weird fascination with historical Russia. So I LOVED the setting. That was actually my favorite part. I’ve seen some complaints that some parts of the siege of Leningrad were historically inaccurate, but I… really didn’t care.
Yes, the book could probably have a few hundred pages trimmed off, but the writing was fine and I was never bored. And historical romance is NOT a genre I’m usually into. This read more like YA at times so that worked better for me.
I was frequently infuriated with the characters, but I guess at least that means I was actually into the story. And every time I got too annoyed with the main characters and tried to set the book aside, I’d find myself picking it up again a few minutes later because I was so completely wrapped up in this world. The tragedy of their whole situation was super emotional and I just needed them to be happy.
But just a few complaints:
Pretty sure these angsty little drama llamas were causing more of their own problems than Hitler was for part of the story. Like nobody was MAKING Alexander sleep with Tatiana’s sister. Good grief.
I genuinely wanted to love Alexander and be totally into this romance, but I was not a fan of him. I know a lot of my Goodreads friends LOVE Alexander, but I just have zero tolerance for men who are super possessive, aggressive, controlling, don’t listen when women say no, and who have a temper. He was just not attractive to me in most scenes. I get that it’s another culture and time period, which is why I kept reading. But the level of his love/obsession with Tatiana could easily turn abusive (and it was kind of creepy at times already… like he was more into her “innocence” than her). And him punching the wall by Tatiana’s face and screaming at her and hurting her because he’s just crazy with concern is… not that romantic to me. He legitimately freaked me out in some scenes that I’m pretty sure were meant to be sweet? And Tatiana’s willingness to literally DIE for him and completely disregard herself was a concerning combination with his behavior.
Ok… now I’m laughing. Maybe I’m just not the best person to review dramatic love stories. I get that people love this stuff, but I just want to sit everyone down and discuss things rationally. COMMUNICATE. I’m really sorry that I suck the fun out of books by ranting about the guys everyone loves…
Anyways, I absolutely loved Tatiana’s character growth and how strong she became by the end. She was stubborn, persistent, endured so much, and finally took action. The end was super intense. Even if I wasn’t a huge fan of Alexander, I still really cared about both of these characters and the situation they were in!
One more thing: the author’s note in the back talks about how Tatiana and her sister were best friends, but I never got anything remotely like that from the story. Her sister was absurdly mean and callous to everyone around her to the point where her character was reduced to some caricature… I’m not sure if this was done so the reader wouldn’t feel bad that Alexander and Tatiana were going behind her back, but that whole aspect was odd. The whole family felt like a bunch of fairy tale villains at times.
I know I just complained a lot, but I honestly did enjoy this book and was more into it than most other stories I’ve read this year!! There really weren’t many dull moments. I totally recommend this book if you like historical romance, WWII stories, or… The Winner’s trilogy? I know that’s random but this story really reminded me a lot of The Winner’s Crime!