|Title: The Bronze Horsemen|
Author: Paullina Simons
Pages / Year: 811 / 2009
Ahhhh, after sharing my euphoria about this book when I was still at very beginning (here, here, here), I am now here to give you the final review of this book! I gave it 5 STARS but I will warn you: this review is loooooong and it will have spoilers (but I'll put them under a cut and let you know beforehand so you can stop reading if you wish!)
I finished this book last week but this is a book that, no matter if you like it or don't (I've read several reviews and there were a lot of mixed opinions), it leaves us exhausted after reading it! There are people who complain about repetition in events, either about war or hunger or even the love scenes but, in my opinion, the amount of those scenes and how repeated some of them were was what made me live in that book during the 3 days I read it. It's a book that you can't help but live intensely, I felt so many emotions throughout the pages from anguish to nerves....there was even a moment where I wanted to stop reading because I was affraid of what would follow. I got to the end so tired, it was such a ride, and that is why I have decided to have a week off between reading and writing about it so I could get my head in the game, again.
I felt as if I was a member of Tatiana's family, as if I lived in the little room she had, as if I walked everyday to the store to get their food. I felt as if I had only 200g of bread per day to eat and as if I had to put on every single clothing piece in my dresser to not freeze to death. If you are waiting for an easy romance book, you won't find it here!
This is, above all, a story about war. A story told from the battle front but also from the people who don't carry weapons but feel the effects of the war everyday. The writing is beautiful, to me it's one of the most easy writing styles I've seen and I think that because the author was born in this time period in Russia, it was so easy for her to write so well the scenes and the whole vibe of war.
I fell in love with Tatiana! She is the main character and I must tell you that I have never seen a better written character that has grown so much along the story! It's very likely that when you begin, you will find yourself frustrated with this 17 year old, very naïve, very selfess and helpful to the point where she suffers with it but I can also guarantee you that you will feel as if you have to protect her. About other characters, I will talk in the spoilers.
Which will start now. So, if you don't want to read any spoilers, this is where you should stop reading. From here down, I will yell and scream and probably spoil a few facts of the story for everyone. Eventhough the book is split in 4 parts, I will split it in 3: Pre-Lazarevo; Lazarevo; Post-Lazarevo.
If you're not reading further, I have to say that I reccomend this book SO bad. It consumed me, I got angry with some characters and I rolled my eyes sometimes but this is such a beautiful story, especially if you love History and the Soviet Russia period. This book will present you the communist life from the eyes of someone who has always lived there (Tatia) and from the prespective of someone who came from USA (Alex).
p.s.: there isn't even a love triangle here!!!!
********* THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW THIS LINE!!!!! *********
As I said above, this is where the spoilers begin (I'm repeating myself so that you can't say I didn't told you so) and I'm splitting this opinion in 3: Pre-Lazarevo; Lazarevo (aka sex partyyyy); Post-Lazarevo. Here we go:
In the beginning of this book, we meet the characters. 4 of them are the main characters and those are the ones I'm mentioning now: Tatiana and Dasha, who are sisters; Alexander and Dimitri who are soldiers from the Red Army. Alex is ranked higher than Dimitri and this may or may not contribute a lot to the story. At the start, Tatiana got on my nerves sooooo much, she didn't do anything right, if you told her to buy a blue tablecloth she would buy a red one, and whenever she talked with Alex there was so much silliness coming out of her mouth (but okay, she wanted to protect her sis).... but what got even more on my nerves was Tatia's family!!!!!
GAHHHH, CAN I HIT THEM, was what I thought during every single - e-v-e-r-y-s-i-n-g-l-e - interaction among the Metanova family (I'm excluding Babushka and Deda who went away in the beginning*sniff* but they were the only ones who were decent to Tania). Eventhough at the start I hated this family and I felt enraged by how they treated Tania as if she was a slave, later on in the story I ended up feeling a little sorry for them but not sorry enough to forgive them. I thought Dasha was so silly.... I saw opinions where people questioned if Dasha ever truly loved Alex...I think, she did love him, not for real (has someone else barfed when they heard about the engagement???) but it was real enough for her. She was kind of a twat, so.
And now we talk about Alexander. Okay. At this point, I still liked him a lot, he looked out for this family and for Tatiana but I also found that he kept blaming Tatiana, who was only 17 (!!!!!), saying how it's her fault that they aren't together and how she didn't want to be with her sister's boyfriend and this and that, but he is the mature one, he is the one who dates the two sisters and in truth, it's easy to talk when you have nothing to lose. If Tatiana declared war on her sister and confessed her love for Alex, everything at home would be even worse and obviously, seeing as her family couldn't even get up to pick up their food, I understand how Tatia didn't want to create more drama at the house. I think this was very mature of her, even if she made it look like a bit of a martyr, but I think it was wrong of Alex to spend the rest of the book throwing that at her face.
It's in this part where the most goosebump-inducing things happen: the hunger, the cold....aiiii....the deathes (won't say who dies so it remains slightly spoiler free!). The last part of this chapter will leave you drenched in tears and you will want to throw the book out of the window! It was by the end of this part where I thought about giving up the book because I was hurting too much and I was scared of what would happen...but I soldiered on! Let's see what hapenned next!
This was the chillingggggg part of the story. Nothing major happened and this was the part where you could finally breathe, "phewww, Tatia is safe, warm and with food on the table, great!"..... obviously we then notice that there are still 300 pages to finish and so some drama will quickly arise but still... we can lie to ourselves for about 100 pages.
In this part, the days of Tatia and Alex can be discribed as: wake up, sex, eat, sex, fish, sex, brush teeth, sex, clean the house, sex, eat, sex, gaze at the stars, sex, sleep, quickie in the middle of the night. Seriously. It's a lot of sex and it's often awkward sex too and with a frequency so high that I found myself turning pages and saying "come back, war, you're forgiven!"
Eventhough this part is all about peace and love, it was in this part where I started hating Alex. Well, maybe hating is too strong a term but he gets on my nerves so bad!!!! He has always been protective and has always defended Tatia and he even yelled at her sometimes but here he just elevates that behaviour 10000000x more! FOR GOD'S SAKE, SHUT UP, LAD, was what I wanted to say.
Everything started when he first got to Lazarevo and began treating everyone who supported Tatia as if they were below him. Fine, he was probably hurt but these people supported and protected Tatiana (his "great love") when she most needed and he should be thankful for that, especially when he always complained about how her family didn't support her. But no. He disrespected everyone, he was misbehaved, he complained and yelled at everyone, made Tatia look like a mug! If I was Tatia, I'd so have stomped my foot and asked him to stop but she is young and lacked the courage to do so. You're forgiven, Tatia!
Then, the marriage happenned....what????? I didn't think this was cool in the least, it was very rushed, but okay, they were happy and thus began their super crazy sex journeys. But that's when he becomes even more protective and psycho!!!!! He screams at her about everything, she stops being able to join everyone in the village for the sewing circle, she can't visit the people who helped her anymore and instead she does things for Alex or simply stares at him. Like... WHAT THE HECK IS THIS????
The worst comes now, of course. Alex goes as far as manipulating Tatia and playing with her emotions! For example, when he says that he only married her so he could "fuck her" anytime he wanted??? I would understand if he said something SLIGHTLY offensive to scare her (considering bad decisions are her forte) but never, NEVER, should he have said this to her! Nothing justified this. I will quote this bit of the book so you can share my anger:
"She pressed her body softly against his side, kissing his arm. “Shura,” Tatiana whispered, “how do you think I’ve been able to live out these days with you? I couldn’t continue if I thought you were leaving me. Husband,” she said, her voice like a black pit, “everything I have I gave to you. If you leave, you’re going to take it all.”
Alexander had to get off the bed before he lost his mind. He jumped down to stand on the floor. “Well, you’d better get more from somewhere, Tania!” he exclaimed. “Because I am leaving, and I’m leaving without you.”
Silently she shook her head.
“Don’t shake your head at me!” Alexander yelled. “There is a war on, for fuck’s sake! A war! Millions of people are already dead. What do you want, to be just another dead body without an ID tag in a mass grave?”
She started to convulse. “I have to come with you,” she said in her smallest whisper. “Please.”
“You’re breaking the blockade? Where?”
“Can’t tell you.”
“You tell me everything.” She paused. “Don’t you, Alexander?” Tatiana asked pointedly. “Don’t you tell me everything?”
What was that in her voice? God. He wasn’t about to ask. “Not this.”
Tatiana jumped down. Alexander backed away. He couldn’t be far enough from her eyes and her body and her open palms.
“Tell me, Shura,” she said pleadingly. “You didn’t marry me to keep secrets.”
“Tania, I’m not having this with you! Do you understand?”
“No!” she yelled. “Why in the world did you marry me then, if all you wanted was to continue to lie!”
“I married you,” Alexander yelled in a breaking voice, “so I could fuck you anytime I felt like it! Don’t you get it by now? Anytime, Tania! What else do you think a soldier on furlough could possibly want? And if I hadn’t married you, all of Lazarevo would now be calling you my whore!”"
There is so much psychologic violence in this relationship and for me, this part was not OK! I can't allow this kind of behaviour and from here on I kind of fell out of love with Alex, he now has a target on his back, I wanted to slap him repeatedly. I wouldn't allow people to treat me this way, I don't allow people to treat my loved ones this way and I won't allow for him to treat my little babe Tatia like this! Not in war times, not in peaceful times, not in any fucking time (and I'm sorry about my french, but enough with these type of characters!!! They aren't healthy, they shouldn't be romanticized, and we shouldn't be telling women that these kind of men are the ones we want. NO, NO AND NO!)
This isn't a healthy relationship at all, it wasn't good and I think it's really wrong from Paullina Simons to ruin a GREAT AND PERFECT book and story with these kind of behaviours from Alex. Also, she ruined a character. We're all rooting for Tatia to not stay with Dimitri so then she can stay with Dimitri 2.0??? PLEASE, let's move on.
This chapter begins with an awful decision made by Tatia! Which, by the way, is very common along the pages and only contributes to get us worried.
This chapter was my favorite of them all, to be honest, because we see this clear evolution on Tania's part and she gets even more awesome and cute and sweet and I love everything about it (minus Alex!).
In this one, Tania goes back to Leningrad so she can find what happened to Alex, who hasn't written to her for months, and she goes back to the hospital where she used to work at and ends up joining Red Cross, where she meets Doctor Matthew (who is kinda irrelevant, but okay) and ends up being sent to the front where she is reunited with her greatest love.
I love how she stands her ground in this part (but I hate how Alex always wants her to get naked on the hospital??? Please, control your hormones for a moment!), she knows her business and even though her decisions are always dubious to me, she does what she has to do to get out of Russia. You go, girl!!!! Shows us what you got!!!
Until Dimitri shows up, of course. I confess that I don't get how Dimitri lived so long in this book, why was Alex dumb enough to beat Dimitri instead of killing him right way and making it look like an accident and why is that Dimitri has to ruin everybody's life???? Arghhhh, crap, he could have been killed in battle! So many nice people who deserved to live and we're grating oxygen to this leech???
I fell in love with Ina and Matthew (but he is still irrelevant especially because of...YOU KNOW WHAT) and I wanted them to have followed Tatia to the States so that they could all love each other and take care of each other and create one big happy family but apparently we can't have nice things :(
Has someone else cried loooooooads with that ending? After a week, I think I'm still crying rivers :( Oh God. Why, Alex, why? :( :( :( I know I don't like you but whyyyyy?
Okay, this rev took me long enough but it's doneeee. I feel much lighter now that I've spit all this out. I've calmed myself down enough to be able to pick up the next book of this saga and feel another rollercoaster of emotions!