Historical Fiction · Ida's English Reading Corner

‘The Bronze Horseman’ by Paullina Simons (2000)

War was the ultimate chaos, a pounding, soul-destroying snarl, ending in blown-apart men lying unburied on the cold earth. There was nothing more cosmically chaotic than war.  (p. 357)

‘The Bronze Horseman’ is a series consisting of three books, and this one is the first one in line. The story is set during World War 2 and centers around seventeen year old Tatiana Metanova and her family, who are faced with the beginnings of war in Russia. The story starts on the first day of war on June 22, 1941. Tatianas’ life in Leningrad is about to change on this day – because of the war with its bombs and destruction, bringing to mankind loss and grief, hunger and death, and it changes because of Alexander. With this soldier entering Tatianas’ life at a time where all she could experience from war was excitement, everything is turned upside-down.

What I loved about this book was its depiction of war in Russia, and with it the depiction of how the reaction of the youth towards war was indeed first and foremost displayed in one emotion: excitement. For some that might feel disturbing, but back then a war meant change. It meant something other than daily life occurred to shake up the lives of everyone – and that brought up a lot of excitement for the future. The book showed how most people underestimated the consequences of war when it started– hunger, diseases and death being only a few central aspects. I was shaken to the core by Tatianas’ family and how they treated her – and how she still and despite their behaviour towards her, continued to lovingly care for them beyond her own strength. I also loved the fact that there were characters you could love and those you could hate, those you could somehow understand in how they behaved and those whom one could never in a million years understand at all.

When I started reading this book two weeks ago, I felt quite certain that I might have found myself a new favourite book to read. It felt as though I was part of the story, witnessing the consequences of war and the heartache of a love that is made impossible throughout the story. I was constantly asking myself: If there was a war raging in our country, would I be one of the first to die, one of thousands that are only known as “the three million that didn’t survive it”? If it was me in Leningrad, would I have survived the cold, the hunger, the bombs and the malice of other people? Would I have given away my last grams of bread to someone else who needed it just as badly as I did?

The first half of the book, I always wanted – no, needed – to know how the story would continue, and I rarely have that kind of urge to read on. I had fallen for a book.
But then the second half of it began and I grew more and more frustrated with the characters and their behaviour in critical situations and with the choices they made. Excuse me, but there is a war going on, and with or without war, you could die any minute. Would you waste your precious time pretending or being distant towards the ones you love simply because something was said that was clearly not meant that way? Ugh. And then it got cheesy for a while and I got why some people entitled ‘The Bronze Horseman’ as their guilty-pleasure-read. I mean, come on! The bad decisions didn’t really stop after that and there were some more infuriating interactions between characters. I also have to confess that I had a bit of a difficulty liking the character of Alexander as much as I would have wanted to. There were times when I questioned every last bit of his personality and his behaviour and wondered why Tatiana put up with something – or someone – like this in the first place.
And I grew more and more nervous and disappointed, because there are two more books to continue this story where I thought it would have been better to end it after the first half of the first book. But thank goodness, that was a phase that did not last very long, and the last part with its ending really consoled me and left me teary-eyed.

Overall, it is still a pretty good book and thrilling to read. Honestly, I’m still excited to continue this series and am looking forward to find out what else is in store for Tatiana Metanova…


Author:   Paullina Simons
Title:       The Bronze Horseman
Series:     The Bronze Horseman (#1)
Press:      HarperCollins
Year of publication: 2000
Pages:      637


 

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