Another emotionally compelling tale that celebrates undying love as two young superheroes overcome bombing raids, starvation, and treacherous friends in Leningrad under siege by the Germans.
As in so many other oversized books of its genre, the lovers here are at the mercy of a plot that strains credulity as it ratchets up the tensions and exploits the passions. When Alexander Belov and Tatiana meet in the summer of 1941, he’s an officer in the Red Army, while she’s a 17-year-old factory worker living in a crowded apartment with her elder sister Dasha, her twin brother Pasha, her parents and grandparents. Alexander is courting Dasha, but Tatiana and he are soon in love. It’s a love they can’t declare, however, because Alexander has a dangerous secret—and a dangerous friend. Alexander in fact is really an American who, as a child in the early 1930s, came to Russia with his idealistic parents. They soon soured on Communism, and, as the Trials began, were arrested. His mother was shot, his father died in prison, but not before Alexander persuaded classmate Dimitri, whose own father was a prison guard, to allow him to see Dad one last time. In return, Alexander promised to take Dimitri to America whenever they found an opportunity to escape to nearby Finland. But Dimitri, with more lives than a cat, is a bad guy and threatens throughout to betray Alexander whenever Alexander seems to be reneging on their plans. When the siege begins, Tatiana is badly wounded in a bombing attack. Recovered, she starts working at a hospital, and, though her family dies one by one as the food supplies dwindle and winter sets in, she survives. Somehow she escapes the city to enjoy a lovers’ idyll with Alexander—only to return to face even graver threats.
A page-turner in spite of its clunky and cliché-ridden self.