The Bronze Horseman (The Bronze Horseman, #1)

The Bronze Horseman (The Bronze Horseman, #1) - Paullina Simons Not to be obvious, but this is a very Russian book. Well, it's written by a Russian author, so that makes sense. But you can see and feel and read the Russian-ness of the people and the war.Germany has invaded Russia, despite an anti-aggression treaty between them, and despite Russia splitting Poland with Germany. Hitler has broken with Stalin.Tatiana (Tania, Tatia, etc.) is almost 17 years old. She lives with her mother, father, twin brother Pasha, sister Daria (Dasha), and her father's parents. When the announcement comes that Russia is at war with Germany, her father sends Tatiana out to buy food. But Tatia is young and naive; she thinks there's plenty of time. And so she finds herself wandering about town and finally buying her favorite ice cream and eating it on a bench - not worried about what's going on around her. She sees a Red Army soldier across the street, watching her. The soldier crosses the street, talks to her, and ends up following her. Tatia is intrigued by this man, this Alexander Berlov. She's too shy to do much more than hope that he'll follow her. But finally, she gets herself lost, and they begin to talk.Alexander helps her to buy the food she needs from the officer's PX store, and he even decides what to buy. Then Alex and a buddy, Dimitri (Dimi), help Tatia take the food and supplies to her home. As it turns out, Alexander is the very soldier that her sister Dasha exclaimed to her just that very morning that she (Dasha) is in love with. Tatia doesn't know what to do, but she's incapable of hurting her sister, no matter how much she wants to explore this connection with Alexander.And so the love story begins...It's a harsh story of war, of loss, of unhappy families dealing with lessening food rations, longer work hours, and fear. It's the story of when the Germans bombarded Leningrad, effectively blockading the city and leaving its citizens to starve and freeze to death. It's the story of a light in the darkness: Tatiana. She freely gives herself away to everyone and everything, despite how they treat her. And yet, can she give herself to Alexander? Tatia forces herself and Alexander into an impossible situation where Alexander (Shura) can only see Tatia if he pretends to be in love with her sister, Dasha. Despite how Alexander tries to show Tatia over and over again how much he loves her (even going after her when she tries to rescue her twin from a boys camp that's right at the front of the fighting). You feel their love... their tension... the horridness of being separated, even for family's sake.I wanted to scream at Tatiana, and yet, it's who she is.The 2nd part of the book was much better... and then, of course, it all gets worse again. Because Alexander has a secret - one that he's only told to Tatia and Dimitri. Except that Dimi has ulterior motives, that involve Alexander getting them both out of Russia and to America. Because of the secret, Dimi can and does blackmail Alexander at every opportunity; he also makes moves on Tatia and any girl that Alexander seems interested in. Except Dahsha, which surprised me. But Dimi is out for himself and himself only. Tasha describes him as a parasite that needs a strong host; Alexander is that host.The theme of the poem of The Bronze Horseman runs through-out the story. And being Russian, the poem speaks of two lovers who must sacrifice everything for the better of the other (my paraphrase). As the reader, you keep hoping that Alexander and Tatia can escape the inevitable - the sacrifice. But you know better.All I can say is that the foreshadowing is amazing... and the author doesn't flinch from bringing about what is "right" and "necessary" for this story - for their love. There is some justice. There is love and light. But there is also loss and bitterness and loneliness... aching... pain. As I said, it's a very "Russian" story. At one point, the author mentions that Tatia's favorite dress was made by the French, which makes it a dress of love. Had it been made by the Americans, it would have made her happy; by the English, she would have been able to do the stip-upper-lip stuff; by the Russians, she would have agonized. But because it was made by the French, it was a dress of love. So much packed into so few words! And so much foreshadowing the importance of that very dress - the dress that Alexander first saw Tatia wearing.