Historical Fiction · Ida's English Reading Corner

Review | ‘Tatiana and Alexander’ by Paullina Simons (2003)

“Alexander, tell me, how long have you loved my sister?” asked the dying Dasha.
“Tell me, how long have you loved my sister?”
“How long – have you – loved my sister?”
Alexander should have replied, Dasha, if you had seen me standing mute, hearing the day fly, the May fly, an ephemera on a Sunday street  singing, “Someday We’ll Meet in Lvov, My Love and I,” you would have your answer. (p. 220)

Careful! Huge Spoilers ahead!

The Story of Tatiana and Alexander picks up right after what happened last in The Bronze Horseman. After having fled the Soviet Union and arriving at Ellis Island in America, Tatiana gives birth to her son Anthony and grieves the death of her beloved husband Alexander, whom she believes to have died on his way to another promotion. While Tatiana works as a nurse in Ellis Hospital where she had been a patient for the longest time after giving birth, enjoys a wide culinary palette of american food, makes new friends and simply tries to live a decent life for her little son, Alexander is not dead. He fights trough the worst war could offer a human being, trying desperately to get free, to get to his wife and son, whom he has never seen. He believes if his frail and tiny wife got through the worst, he can do the same, he will be able to survive just a little longer.

Having now finished the complete series, I personally liked the second book the least. Although the story was well done and well written, with little flashbacks to provide an insight into Alexanders’ youth and showing how he became what he is now, there were – again – aspects I did not particularly love and made me nearly scream in frustration. For one, I can somehow understand how flashbacks are a great technique to further explain emotions and motives which lie beneath the characters’ doings. But does it really have to be 200 pages worth of sex? Don’t get me wrong, I believe that well written sex scenes are great, they help with the credibility of a story and can be the cherry on top of a cake. But in this context, it really did nothing but confuse and irritate me, because it didn’t help at all with the story. Picture a war-stricken Alexander, fighting to get back to his pregnant wife, hiding himself behind the mask of being a major, a captain, and all he ever thinks of when he remembers his wife Tatiana is how he made love to her in all possible places and positions. Once or twice, yes. But I got the feeling half of the book consisted of Alexanders sex-infused flashbacks, until his Tatiasha is, as he puts it, “tainted with the Gulag”. Also, was it really necessary to bring Tatianas’ twin brother Pasha back to life just to kill him off after roughly 60 pages? When he went missing at the beginning of war in The Bronze Horseman and was declared dead, I somehow knew that he would be brought up sooner or later, but really? It was pure torture having him die when one just got him back – and when there was a slight possibility of him finally reuniting with his twin sister.

What I liked about the book though was the depiction of Tatianas’ conflicted self, living the life Alexander would have wanted her to live, with enough food and warm housing and friends and laughter in promising America but still struggling and grieving and not wanting to continue with this life. I also liked how Alexander turned more and more into a person that is deeply traumatized by war, by the things he has seen and done and by what was done to him as a prisoner of war. I was devastated by the fact how he turned from being a highly distinguished major of the Red Army to a prisoner of war, being beaten, nearly shot and over all treated beneath human dignity, all because of his dead parents’ communist background and its consequences.

I have to admit that the beginning of the second book in this series was promising, then it got partly irritating, partly shocking, to be concluded by an ending which honestly made me cry a little bit and not hate this book as much as I did halfway through it. It is not a bad book, either. But the fact that I sat there muttering to myself: “Oh no she didn’t. She did NOT bring back Pasha. (…) Oh goooosh, not another sex scene. (…) When will those tormenting sex scenes have an end? (…) Will Alexander EVER be able to act like a normal human being when Tatiana upsets him in the strangest ways? (…)” is enough to be glad that I am done with these 560 pages, even if it was an ‘okay’ book to read.

 

• • • Click HERE to read about my thoughts on the first book of the ‘The Bronze Horseman’ trilogy by Paullina Simons! • • •

 


Author:   Paullina Simons
Title:       Tatiana and Alexander
Series:     The Bronze Horseman (#2)
Press:      HarperCollins
Year of publication: 2003
Pages:      559


 

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