February 18, 2015

Review: The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

The Bronze Horseman (#1) by Paullina Simons
Publication date: April 2001
Publisher: HarperCollins
Category: Adult - Historical Fiction / Romance
Source: Gifted from Alexa
Summary: During the summer of 1941 the Metanov family are living a hard life in Leningrad. As the German armies advance their future looks bleak. For Tatiana, love arrives in the guise of Alexander, who harbours a deadly and extraordinary secret. (Adapted goodreads.com)





The good
When I read The Bronze Horseman, I don't think I've ever had such a polarizing reaction to a book. Which, depending on your point-of-view, could be a good thing or a bad thing. I experienced a gamut of emotions: enough frustration to make me want to slam the book shut, swoon-worthy moments of love that had me turning the pages, hope that against all odds a happily ever after was on the horizon and did I mention frustration? I literally needed to talk it out with a friend (Thanks Kelly!) to work out my own feelings as to whether or not this book was awful or amazing for making me feel so much. And the answer was amazing. Any book that can evoke such a reaction speaks to the richness of the author's writing and her ability to make each and every character feel real.

It's the summer of 1941 in Leningrad and unbeknownst to the Metanov family, their world is about to change completely. Tatiana Metanov lives with her parents, older sister Dasha and twin brother in a single-room cramped apartment. Things like love, war, death and separation are foreign concepts to them, especially the girls. But then Hitler's armies invade Russia and everything in Leningrad goes to hell. When Tatiana is sent by her parents to stock up on supplies for the family, she meets Alexander, a young soldier in the Red Army. They are immediately drawn to each other and he ends up becoming a great source of her comfort to her entire family as he aids them throughout these troubled times. Of course, their love for one another is far from simple and could actually tear the entire Metanov family apart if revealed. What could've (and a part of me wants to argue should've!) been about their love triumphing in the face of war is an 800 page tale of two people whose love faces every obstacle imaginable. War, family, despicable friends, miscommunications and their own stubbornness. I guess epic love can't be easy, right?

While every character, that I loved and hated, came alive to me as I read - it was truly Tatiana and her relationship with Alexander that I enjoyed the most. Tatiana grows so much throughout this book. She adapts to the difficult times and goes from naive young girl into a resourceful, compassionate woman who knows what she wants and is willing to fight for it. It's a slow journey for her with a lot of set backs and insecurities but it's impossible not to sympathize. She's inherently good and wants those around her to be happy. One of the things I loved about her was that in spite of all the hurt she suffered and witnessed, she still had hope and faith in her heart. And that's one of the many things that draws Alexander to her. He, on the other hand, is a difficult character to crack. There were times when I wanted to reach into the book and punch him in the face for making such bad decisions. But then I could see his single-minded devotion to Tatiana and the lengths he'd go to for her safety and I understood him better (and swooned; there are some steamy moments ahead!).

(Minor) Reservations
I do think that some of the trials Tatiana and Alexander's relationship faced did become repetitive. It's a lot of back and forth with the two same characters who stood in their way. And if the author's goal was to make us hate these two obstacles with a fiery passion, she succeeded with flying colors. But I do think some of that time and energy could've been better spent on shortening the book or fleshing out Alexander's motivations, especially when his actions made me seriously doubt his love for Tatiana. I always got where Tatiana was coming from, even when I didn't like her reasoning. I didn't feel that way about Alexander and it's still a pain point for me when I look back on the book.

Do I recommend?
I do! Do not let the length of this book scare you. I flew through it in less than 3 days. For all my frustrations, it's a compulsive read and one that's very much worth your time.

4 comments:

  1. Would this be appropriate for a YA reader?

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  2. This book sounds really fascinating! I'm not sure I'll be able to get to it any time soon with the madness of review books and other obligations piling up but it's always nice to find a solid historical fiction read. Thanks for the review.

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  3. Yeeeeeeees!!!! I should hate myself a little for pushing this book so hard because it brings such blissful agony to people but I can't. POLARIZING is an amazing word to describe this! And THAT is what blew me away about this book and why it has struck such a chord with me. You love the characters....but you also hate them at times, want to hug them, punch them, cry for them, scream at them, YOU FEEL EVERYTHING!!!! I find that characteristic so unique in books and the complexity of this novel and characters is just on another level. SO happy you went with amazing!!

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  4. Polarizing is exactly the right word for The Bronze Horseman! I felt so many different things as I was reading as well (which you know), and it impressed me that Simons could write a tale that I was so emotionally invested in. While it wasn't always easy to read this story (particularly when frustrating people or moments would happen), it was so totally worth it.

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