Where to start with this book? Do you start with the characters? The setting? The author herself?
First, I love that this is a book about little known female soldiers written by a solider. There is this solidarity, this mutual respect that flows through the book. The war isn’t glamourized or made to seem less realistic, but is handled with such care and such a focus on courage, dedication, and one’s ideals and morals that it seems less of a story about soldiers and more of a story about compassion and realism.
I instantly fell in love with Katya, the main character. I’ve spent time in Russia myself and Katya is so uniquely Russian. She has a love of country, a dedication to family even when she doesn’t understand their choices or actions, a unique bond with her friends, and an openness to ideas not her own that is so reminiscent of folks I met while there. And yet Katya is so like many other girls to which we can relate. A girl searching for her father’s approval. A girl wanting to make a difference in her world. A girl who grieves lost friends and family.
The setting of the book was well done. I appreciated the attention to detail, but I also appreciated that the author didn’t spend a ton of time trying to describe the intricacies of Petrograd, now St. Petersburg. I think detailed descriptions of the beauty of the architecture, etc. would have been a detractor from the main storyline.
The book moves along at a good clip and I appreciated that chapters were prefaced with the date. It made keeping things in the greater context much easier. The language is simple and very few ethnic/cultural references are made that wouldn’t be understood without further research by the reader. There was a little bit of awkwardness in the names of some of the ancillary characters in that both given and surname were used repeatedly within a couple paragraph span, but it was only a handful of times.
Overall, this is a great book. And if you grab a copy, take the book jacket off so you don’t miss the beautiful foil cover design!
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Carolrhoda Lab
Profanity/Language: 1 religious exclamations; 22 mild obscenities; 5 derogatory names; 1 scatological word; 2 anatomical terms.
Violence/Gore: Rock thrown at solider; soldiers fire into crowd causing death; report of injuries from explosion; reports of death in battle; recall of work accident resulting in death; bedtime story where characters are buried alive, burned alive and massacred; man is beaten during hazing ritual; soldiers practice hand to hand combat with various injuries; woman is shot in arm during confrontation; two verbal threats; punch to face; 11 page graphic bloody battle; playful punch to arm; 6 page bloody battle with attempted rape during battle.
Sex/Nudity: 1 incidence of hand-holding; kiss to hand; men make crude reference; woman’s pants fall down exposing bare butt (funny); attempted rape.
Mature Subject Matter:
Political conflict; death; war; separation; infidelity; abandonment; rape; ethics.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Drinking of vodka and wine; smoking of cigarettes.