This book is such a paradox and I'm finding it very difficult to review.
Even though I had a few issues with it and there were moments when I lost interest a bit, but I still can't get it out of my head.
This book took over my life, and affected my mood, yet somewhere in the second half I started to slowly get disappointed and lose interest. But still I just could not stop reading it. It was so addictive.
I'm not going to go into a summary of the book, I think there is enough of that around. But I felt so much through the book that I really need to express my feelings and my opinions.
I have to start by saying that I knew little about the Soviet Union and their way of life, my exposure to Russian literature consists of reading badly translated (into Arabic) novels in high school of which I don't remember the titles, except the one called Rasputin. They mostly were set in a pre revolution period. And of course watching "Doctor Zhivago" which I thought of all through reading this book.
The way of life and the conditions and the harshness of war really got to me. I totally enjoyed reading about it and at the same time I was feeling sad and depressed and thankful. Knowing that the author is Russian and that her grandparents went through all that gave it authentically and I didn't have to go check info all the time which enhanced the reading experience.
Leningrad was bleak and miserable. It was bad enough before the war with the living arrangement and their way of life. There was no privacy, no shame and most importantly no ambition. These who had opinions and ambitions did not survive.
Then war starts and people are even more scared. Millions die, and some are just died freezing and starving in the streets.
What came as a total surprise to me is that people from other countries decided to make the Soviet Union their country and home and they embraced communism. I have only heard of people leaving the SU.
I'm not sure what I think about the two main characters, especially Alexander.
Tatiana is certainly a survival and selfless person. She starts of as this innocent seventeen year old who sees the start of war as an adventure. She does not see the seriousness of the situation, does not rush to do her father's bidding. But slowly her character matures as war and starvation takes all. We see her sacrificing everything, she puts her self in danger getting everybody's rations, she gives up food for others, but most importantly she sacrifices Alexander.
And here I can not help but think the situation and the heartache could have been avoided. Because really Dasha, Tatiana's sister obviously gets around, and she just have met Alexander. Yes she mentions that she likes him too much, but it's not something new to her, they weren't serious. Alexander himself did not think it was serious. So why decide to sacrifice her feelings for her sister, why not say the truth from the beginning and spare everyone the hurt. Dasha would have found someone new in a short time, instead if believing in Alexander's fake feelings and declarations and getting more in love and more attached, just making the hurt more. You just feel sorry for Dasha and anger towards those two.
Tatiana survives so much, bombing, freezing, starvation, heartache, and it just makes her stronger. For someone who says she faints for the least reasons, she did extremely well. Especially near the end with her situation. But really some things are just to convenient.
Alexander now was a little confusing. Is he a good guy? He does the right thing. But then he gets too self absorbed, it's all about what he wants and he wants Tatiana to be save, so he is rude and angry and annoying to everyone else. He is very intense, it's not just the war, but his background and history as well. I'm not quite sure what to think of him, but I admit I kinda liked the scenes where he is so angry and shouting the most. From what I read, we might just get a better idea in the next book.
The first half of the book was just amazing, even though I had a few issues, I just couldn't put it down, it just had a hold on me. Then somewhere in the second half things changed and we had pages and pages of nothing but these two eating and having sex, it was just disappointing and trivial after all that happened in Leningrad. I started to lose interest, but still I could not stop reading. It does pick up a bit at the end, but by then I wasn't worried since I knew there are two more books in the series.
I do want to read the other books but not just yet, this was exhausting and I want to wait to do it again.
I feel like my review is all over the place, I'm trying to summarize all that I felt while reading it. I'll see if I can revise it later.
And now I leave with this image, Lee Pace as Alexander.