Reading List: The Bronze Horseman

Quick Note:

I realized a couple of weeks ago that I would like to do a better job of keeping track of the books that I read and I also want to keep a better record of books that I want to read. I have a blog to keep a record of our family to look back on, why not do that for my books too?

PLEASE feel free to comment with any recommendations that you think I should look into and please know too that I am going to be truthful here and share the good, the bad, the ugly…sometimes I’m proud to have Dickens in my hands and sometimes I’m wishing for a brown paper cover to hide what it is that I’m actually filling my brain with in that moment. A lot of what I read is in the middle of that spectrum, so be nice and if you’re going to judge, just remember what Thumper said to Bambi. I will post the books on the regular page of my blog, but you can also find them all in one place under ‘Reading List’ up there at the top of the page.

Oh, and one more thing…I try to never break the spine of a book and I certainly don’t curl the cover around the back of the book and I only kind of like reading on an e-reader,  though I do like it more and more. You know, just in case you were wondering. And, I really really don’t enjoy reading things that scare me. My brain is just too good at running with that kind of thing.

SO…the first book to be officially noted and recorded:

The Bronze Horseman, by Paulina Simmons.

To be perfectly on honest, I picked this book up at the beginning of the year on a ‘buy 2 get 1 free’ table and thought, why not? I had a hard time getting past the first 20 pages or so (so hard in fact, that I read a couple of other books after cracking the cover of this one because I just couldn’t get into it) but eventually I got past those first 20 pages and then the next 800 or so flew by.

The book starts on the first day that the Soviet Union declares war with Germany during WWII. At it’s core, it’s a love story, which I did enjoy, but it’s also a seemingly good insight into what life was like in Soviet Russia during this time which was a whole new world for me. My complaint about this book is actually one of its strengths, which is that a story that could have been told in 200 pages is spread out over 4 times that, and on the one hand I think that I had moments of thinking, “get on with it, Ms. Simmons”, but on the other hand, the people of Lenningrad were baricaded and starved by the Germans (and arguably, Stalin himself) for just about 800 days losing 2 million (out of 3 million) people and the story wouldn’t have packed nearly the punch that it did if she had simply said, “the winter was long, we were hungry”. Sitting at the table with the family as they cut the day’s ration of bread that was about the size of a deck of cards into 6ths knowing that it was all that they were going to eat that day and also knowing that it was composed largely of sawdust and cardboard because flour was no longer available in Lenningrad was a pivotal point in my understanding of what WWII was like in Eastern Europe. It also made me walk into our kitchen about 18 times a day and say thanks because…good grief.

The love story side of the house is well crafted and unexpected, and since that’s the driving force of the plot I don’t want to say too much about it except that she develops the characters well and it is nearly impossible not to want to know how things turn out. There’s a little mystery to be solved about the leading man, though I didn’t think it was all that mysterious, and the fortitude of the main character, Tatiana, is enviable if not slightly unbelievable at times.

All in all, I’m really happy that I pushed through the early pages of this book. It’s a trilogy and I’m about half way through the second book, so once I’ve read all of them I’ll report back on the trilogy as a whole. My biggest take-home point from this book was a considerably deeper understanding for the horrid reality of war and a deepened sense of gratitude for the place that we live in. Communist Russia in the 1940s was inhumane at best, but against that backdrop, the love story that is crafted glows even more brightly.

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