The Bronze Horseman begins in 1941 as the Germans have just invaded Russia, but seventeen year old Tatiana Metanova still stops to enjoy the day with an ice-cream, and as a bus passes she sees a soldier staring at her from across the street. Alexander Belov is mesmerized from the first at the sight of Tatiana, but is in for a surprise when he follows her home and finds her sister is a woman he’s met before – and that sister thinks Alexander is in love with her. Out of love for her older sister, Tatiana keeps silent and encourages Alexander to court Dasha. Much of the story continues as the Germans advance on Leningrad, finally resulting in a siege of the city as Tatiana and her family struggles to survive amidst the ever growing shortage of food and fuel, along with the oncoming Russian winter. When on leave Alexander continues to involve himself with the Metanova family, not able to stay away from Tatiana even though he must hide his feelings for her, although his “friend” Dimitri openly courts Tatiana.
Since I am not into book reports and spoilers I’m not going to reveal much more of the plot, although Alexander does have a deep dark secret from his past that Dimitri holds over Alexander’s head that threatens both his and Tatiana’s eventual happiness, and finally culminates in a hair-raising attempt to escape from Soviet Russia. The good – the scenes in Leningrad were chilling, as people literally starved to death and dropped where they were (and left there) as bombs rained down around them daily. Alexander’s devotion to Tatiana was very endearing, and I loved the scenes where he dealt with her injuries after the bombing. Sigh…
The problematic – Tatiana’s never ending suffering at the hands of her family as she sacrifices all during the siege without a word of complaint (you know any seventeen year old who would put up with that??). Just stepping aside and letting her self-centered sister have the man she loves? Tatiana getting a private hospital room in overcrowded Leningrad? Once the cast came off her leg she was pretty much healed and able to trudge up and down icy stairs and streets with no discomfort or slowness? But the worst for me was the idyllic setting around page 600 that went on and on and on and on – I got the picture already and I did not need 100+ pages of nothing but sex and sex and more sex. Where was the editor?
So why am I still giving this one four stars even though I agree with the flaws pointed out by the critical reviewers on Amazon? Since I flat out couldn’t keep my nose out of the book and the carpet didn’t get vacuumed and the floors didn’t get mopped this weekend, I guess that’s a good indication that despite the flaws I was pretty much sucked into the story and thoroughly enjoyed it and plan on reading the next in the trilogy Tatiana and Alexander. Just be warned that if you’re not able to get past the nitpicks and the author’s somewhat repetitive style, I suspect this is not the book for you.