Epic. Tragic. Beautiful.
The most enduring and inspiring love story ever.
A stunning work of art that captivated me so completely, heart and soul. With the power to shatter you to pieces and then fill your heart
with joy, this is an unforgettable story of two people who would
risk it all for a love that defies the ages.
- Related Posts: 6-Star Reads, 2013 Favorites, My review of Tatiana and Alexander (#2), My review of The Summer Garden (#3), My Favorite Series
The golden skies, the translucent twilight, the white nights, all hold the promise of youth, of love, of eternal renewal. The war has not yet touched this city of fallen grandeur, or the lives of two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanova, who share a single room in a cramped apartment with their brother and parents. Their world is turned upside down when Hitler’s armies attack Russia and begin their unstoppable blitz to Leningrad.
Yet there is light in the darkness. Tatiana meets Alexander, a brave young officer in the Red Army. Strong and self-confident, yet guarding a mysterious and troubled past, he is drawn to Tatiana–and she to him. Starvation, desperation, and fear soon grip their city during the terrible winter of the merciless German siege. Tatiana and Alexander’s impossible love threatens to tear the Metanova family apart and expose the dangerous secret Alexander so carefully protects–a secret as devastating as the war itself–as the lovers are swept up in the brutal tides that will change the world and their lives forever.
“We walk alone through this world, but if we’re lucky, we have a moment of belonging to something, to someone, that sustains us through a lifetime of loneliness.”
In tears. I finished this amazing, beautiful, powerful book in tears. This will be an incredibly hard review to write, as all I’m left with is raw, intense, unadulterated feeling. This is what a true love story is all about… full of struggle and inspiration, disappointment and elation, devastation and hope and sacrifice amidst an unrelenting desire to be forever enveloped and consumed by the love of your soul mate. How far would you go for the one you love? This story resolutely answers this question. To the ends of the earth, through the dangerous vises of war, through grueling starvation and unbearable sacrifice. What Tatiana and Alexander went through, put everything in perspective… it was so inspiring to see their spirit and love endure through the tremendous tragedies and experiences they encountered during WWII in the Soviet Union. I cried a few times throughout the book, my heart breaking multiple times, only to begin to heal, and then break again. And at the end, I was just a mess.
Not only was this story incredibly beautiful and powerful, but the writing is almost magical and poetic. It’s a long book and the story unfurls slowly, allowing its power to build, the emotions to intensify and the result is that I whole-heartedly felt every part of the book. I was entranced by the words and fortified by the strength of our hero and heroine. The fact that this was a historical romance which took place during WWII, a time that many of us have read so much about, made it feel so much more real. The story felt so endlessly oppressive, I really felt their struggles, the hunger, the crushing sadness and waning hope. Their life in Leningrad was just so bleak and getting more intolerable by the day. I also felt a lot of anger at how the family treated Tania. You see, this was a time where families lived in small, communal apartments, half a dozen people in one room or two, sharing beds and working long days to earn just barely enough to feed themselves.
So what is this book about? Tatiana Metanov, a 17-year old girl, meets Alexander Belov, a soldier in the Red Army, the day after Germany attacked The Soviet Union, propelling Leningrad and the entire country into the violent maelstrom of WWII. As she sits on a bench, waiting for the train and eating crème brûlée ice cream, she sees this soldier across the street and something magical happens instantly inside of them, as if destiny pushed them together at this very place, at that very time.
“Tatiana stared back at him for just a moment, and in the moment of looking into his face, something moved inside her; moved she would have liked to say imperceptibly, but that wasn’t quite the case. It was as if her heart started pumping blood through all four chambers at once, pouring it into her lungs and flooding it through her body. She blinked and felt her breath become shorter. The soldier was melting into the pavement under the pale yellow sun.”
They spend most of the day together, unexpectedly pulled towards each other, a hope for something more filling their hearts. Tatiana has never been in love, unlike her sister, Dasha, who has been going on and on about a solider she’s fallen for. When Alexander walks Tania home, they discover Alexander is Dasha’s soldier. Struck speechless, their hopes crashed and shattered before they even took flight. In the days that followed, however, Tania saw Alexander every day in secret, becoming friends as their love began to blossom. Tania is so selfless that she refuses to hurt her sister, forcing her and Alexander to lead duplicitous lives, hiding their growing feelings from everyone else, wary to not let a impassioned glance betray them.
“Somewhere in those weeks Tatiana’s innocence was lost. The innocence of honesty was gone forever, for she knew she would have to live in deceit, ever day in verse and prose, in close quarters, in the same bed, every night when her foot touched Dasha’s, she would live in deceit. Because she felt for him. But what Tatiana felt for Alexander was true. What Tatiana felt for Alexander was impervious to the drumbeat of conscience.”
Tatiana is remarkable. Her family pays little regard to her, thinking she is young and weak, but she is irrevocably the strongest of them all. So selfless, to her detriment many times, but so courageous as she takes on the the struggles and responsibilities for her entire family. The more the story progresses, and the more I saw what Tatiana had to endure and survive, the more I was literally brought to tears over how valiant she was as her love for Alexander fueled her every brave action.
“I love you breathlessly, my amazing man.”
And Alexander… my god, this man is amazing. His valor, his passion, his fierce protectiveness over Tania. No two people have loved each other this much. The things they tell each other are breathtakingly beautiful, romantic and heartfelt.
“Ask yourself these three questions, Tatiana Metanova, and you will know who you are. Ask: what do you believe in? What do you hope for? But most important – ask: what do you love?”
“I am Tatiana. And I believe in, and hope for, and love Alexander for life.”
While Tatiana struggles with self-doubt and the responsibilities she bears for her family, Alexander struggles with the weight of his past, with the burden of promises made. Their love and happiness seems forever out of reach, despite the trueness, deepness and honesty of it.
This book chronicles everything that happened to them, tragic experience after tragic experience, with moments of joy and hope sprinkled in between… giving me just enough stamina to endure the story. You won’t believe everything they have to go through to be together.
“As if it were always meant to be. As if betrayal, deceit, war, hunger, death–and not just death, but the death of everyone else she had ever loved–had been their courtship.”
In the end, we are left heartbroken and hopeful at the same time. There are three books in the series and there is an HEA I’m told, but this road to happiness is paved with breathless heartache and unbearable pain. You will feel every moment, every word, every stolen glance. This achingly beautiful love story is one of survival and sacrifice, an urgent desire to be together despite the looming threat of death… never knowing which minute together will be the last. An absolutely unforgettable romance.
“Good-bye, my moonsong and my breath, my white nights and golden days, my fresh water and my fire. Good-bye, and may you find a better life, find comfort again and your breathless smile, and when your beloved face lights up once more at the Western sunrise, be sure what I felt for you was not in vain. Good-bye and have faith, my Tatiana.”