SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE BRONZE HORSEMAN
"Love is so short, forgetting is so long."
-Tonight I Can Write
I couldn't possibly choose a passage from this book that best encapsulates the theme of Tatiana and Alexander's continuing battle against the odds of World War II. So I'm nicking something from Neruda which I find fitting because Shura, for the most part of this book, sounds like a hybrid between a South American poet and... well, Chuck Norris. In fact, try reading that poem and you'd get a sense of Shura's pervading mood in this one.
“Our commander is a man who can kill another in a tiny cell with nothing. Just by the sheer force of his will.”
I also have the vaguest suspicion that the contraceptive pill was invented solely because of Shura's "Sugarstick".
I find reading Tatiana and Alexander the perfect
punishmentbook for someone who has kept on raging against the hero and heroine being together too much too frequently. Or for someone who complains about shallow plot devices and transparent twists that just seems tedious when you already know where its heading five chapters in. This one you already have a vague idea what's going to happen in the end. But you keep yourself glued wanting, NEEDING to see how Paullina Simons will get you there.
It's like watching Rocky. You know he's going to win because... well he's Rocky, but you want to see how he'd beat
communismIvan Drago. Fitting, no?
Initially, the story is divided into three storylines points: Alexander in the aftermath of that choice he made for him and Tatiana in Morozovo, his past as told from his POV until a few of the events of TBH and Tatiana carving life for herself and her son in New York City. I was very partial to the Shura POVs early on and it was done really well (insert dirty, lascivious smile here) craftily avoiding the traps of redundancy by bringing something new to the table and stopping appropriately at some point so as not to hamper the story from moving forward.
And writers planning to jump in the alternate POV bandwagon should probably take notes.
But the loss of this storyline somewhere in the middle did make me feel the merging stories of present day Shura and Tatia (ie post-TBH) got a little too indulgent. I was finding my mind drifting amidst their internal monologues because I have gotten myself attached to both these characters and reading about the mental torture of surviving the distance of an ocean and war, the doubts and uncertainties, the injustices endured and the temptations resisted... the mind can only read so much angst without getting distracted for a while. To be reassured that yes you are sitting beside a loved one and there's food in the table, that someone just liked your vacation photo in Facebook and somewhere, someone watching Honey Boo-Boo on TV.
There is one moment, a moment in eternity. Before we find out the truth about one another. That simple moment is the one that propels us through life - what we felt like at the very edge of our future, standing over the abyss, before we knew for sure we loved. Before we knew for sure we loved forever.
There's still stretches of scenes that defy belief, plot twists that border on the fantastical juxtaposed with Tatiana's realistic descent into grief. Moments of Shura's near-impossible, superhuman feats (he may or may not have his very own Inglourious Basterds somewhere down the line) grounded by his one weakness. Man of Steel that one. Seriously. I'm pretty sure he can literally break vaginas, I'm not even kidding.
But never letting you forget when and where it is and what you've gotten yourself into.
Because just as in The Bronze Horseman, this book vividly portrays the horrors of war, what it reduces men into and what it leaves in its ravaged path. What's new in this installment is the looming threat in the aftermath: from the bigger picture with the evolving political landscape, to the personal imprints it will leave our two protagonists.
Some have said they are happy with how things ended in this book, and I can now fully understand the trepidation to continue to The Summer Gardens. That last two chapters and watching too many episodes of Mad Men will tend to do that, I guess.
And ten 1950s bucks says, Don Draper has nothing on Alexander Barrington (Gad, even his name gives me girly tingles).
“He was sixteen and he was ready.
Her lips moved to his mouth. “Are you afraid?” she said.
“I’m not,” he said, throwing the cigarette and the lighter on the floor. “But you should be.”