Struggling to Survive The Bronze Horseman
This was such a tough read to get through I felt like I, too, was trying to survive the Siege of Leningrad
On the even of Tatiana's 17th birthday, Hitler's troops attack Russia. She spends the day enjoying the summer sun in Leningrad and meets a handsome soldier. Before their love can tape shape, Tatiana realizes that the soldier she's starting to fall for is the same man her sister has been courting. Throughout the siege of Leningrad, Tatiana will fight to survive and keep her family together even if it means ignoring her heart's desire.
This one was painful to get through. I have to commend the story for its gritty realism of the pain that families went through just struggling to keep from starving during the siege. I felt like I too was trying to make it through the winter in Russia as I struggled to find engagement chapter after chapter of this long and painful read. I found relief in the small moments where Tatiana actually took some action over her own destiny like going to find her brother, but mostly I prayed for it to be over. Instead of a protagonist who is fighting for their own salvation, Tatiana remained yoked by her family in their servitude.
"But as always, it is the ties and bonds of love and family that keep people from saving themselves."
It was not an inspiring story. The lack of inspiration made it feel endless. It was hard to connect to a protagonist that just wanted to serve her family even if it meant her own self-destruction.
While Simons vividly portrayed Tatiana's love for her family, she neglected to give the characters any actually redeeming qualities. Her sister Dasha was vain and selfish. Her father was abusive and neglectful. Her mother and brother were both largely absent from the narrative. While Tatiana is poetically revealing her own love for them, there is little reason to understand where that comes from. In fact, the characters that she is working so hard to ridicule Tatiana.
"Wouldn’t you give up Tania for our son? Or even Dasha? But Tania is so timid and weak, she’s never going to amount to anything.”
To no surprise, the daughter of neglect and abuse chose a man who seems to be at best controlling. Alexander is characterized as a handsome soldier, but whenever he is around Tania he is overprotective and controlling. He is viciously jealous of any other man who is near her and is constantly at odds with the family around Tania. I suspect this is intended to be chivalrous and protective, but he seems no better than everyone else manipulating her into servitude. He even admits these faults and I think readers are supposed to find it romantic? That I don't understand.
“To shatter your illusions, I’ll warn you right now that everything you’ve seen will increase a hundredfold now that you’re my wife. Everything.” “Everything?” “Yes. Protectiveness. Possessiveness. Jealousy. All of it. A hundredfold. That’s the nature of the beast. Didn’t want to tell you beforehand, thought it might scare you off.”
The only real conflict driving the plot is the constant "will they or won't they" between Alexander and Tatiana. The conflict would have been best resolved with a candid conversation with Dasha in the first chapter before things with either couple got too far. Even when the relationship with Dasha is resolved though, still the two cannot find peace with each other.
This was a failure for me. If you've already started the book I'd suggest cutting your losses and moving on. This is an epic novel that made me feel like I was starving for a reprieve from a stagnant plot and malicious characters.