Book blogging has given me so many things in life, but there has been one major downside since I started reviewing books over two years ago. My love of long books has taken the backseat to shorter, quicker reads for the sake of posting reviews more frequently. In this way, the Goodreads Reading Challenge has also prevented me from reading the lengthy books I wanted to get lost in for the sake of quantity. This year, I decided I’d drop my reading goal a bit and get to the books I’ve had my sights set on for years. That brings us to Tatiana & Alexander, the second book in The Bronze Horseman Trilogy. I read the first book close to two years ago and was blown away. It became an instant favorite, but I had to wait a while before I could order the next two books in the series. By the time I received them, I was deep in the trenches of ARCs and scheduled reading, unable to find the time to make my way back to Tatiana and Alexander.
Tatiana is eighteen years old, pregnant, and widowed when she escapes war-torn Leningrad to find a new life in America. But the ghosts of her past do not rest easily. She becomes consumed by the belief that her husband, Red Army officer Alexander Belov, is still alive and needs her desperately.
Meanwhile, oceans and continents away in the Soviet Union, Alexander barely escapes execution, and is forced to lead a battalion of soldiers considered expendable by the Soviet high command. Yet Alexander is determined to take his men through the ruins of Europe in one last desperate bid to escape Stalin’s death machine and somehow find his way to Tatiana once again.
Here we are nearly two years later and I’m amazed. I’m astounded the first story stuck in my mind like the book was written from my own memories. It is rare for me, as is true for most readers, to clearly remember every detail of a story, especially when years have elapsed. This is obviously attributed to the amazing detail in which Paullina Simons writes. As I mentioned in my first review, “[The Bronze Horseman] made me feel as if I was living the life of my characters.”
Back to the topic of long books, I have to say, in some ways, social media has done us an injustice. Many readers, like myself, have forgone the tomes due to shorter attention spans, intimidation, and the time it takes to get through one book. Luckily, Tatiana & Alexander reminded me why I love the lengthy ones in the first place! Only in novels like this one are readers able to grow with the characters and experience life with them in a way similar to a real-life relationship. It’s precisely the reason fictional characters can become the best of friends to readers.
This novel was slow in the beginning and there were times when I had to adjust my wandering mind, knowing I needed to settle in for more detail in this large book. Sometimes I found the parts about Alexander’s war experiences to be less intriguing than I hoped for, but even the slowest parts were essential to the story. I did enjoy reading about Tatiana’s experiences far more. As a woman, it was simply easier to relate to her point of view and the life she was living. I appreciated her resiliency and her determination to go to the ends of the earth for her husband.
My favorite thing about this book, besides well, everything, was the loyalty the characters showed to one another. This is something so rarely found in fiction and in reality. People are always looking for the next best thing, and these characters denied their fundamental human desires in favor of promises made to one another. I think this trait truly made the book everything it needed to be. By conveying this loyalty, the author was also able to fully make the reader understand and feel the longing the characters had for the other throughout their unfortunate separation.
Though this book began where the last book left off, still in the throes of World War II, I most enjoyed getting a look at post-war Europe. This is a part of history I had longed to know more about but isn’t something often covered in school history books or in World War II fiction. I always wondered about reconstruction and how the world was affected by such devastation in the years to come. Paullina Simons made this time period feel personal, while still being incredibly informational.
I love the ways this epic love story triggers my empathy and understanding of the past. Even still, it’s hard to fully imagine how hopeless things must have felt during this time in history. So many lives were lost, communication was immensely difficult, and maintaining relationships must have been most challenging.
I have already started the next book in the series, while also reading an ARC of another book, so I’m hoping I will be able to have more reviews to come soon. I’m eager to see what happens to Tatiana and Alexander in a way I’ve been missing from the books I’ve read recently. I’m completely hooked by this series and will be sad to see it come to an end.