If 'The Bronze Horseman' stole my heart then 'The Bridge to Holy Cross' has stolen a few weeks of my reading life. Was it worth it? Well, it still deserves 3.5 stars but I do have a few bones to pick in my review. Consider yourself warned.
This book began brilliantly. I was absolutely enthralled from the opening chapter and Simons effortlessly kept up a pace and tension that rivalled 'The Bronze Horseman'. On my birthday, I was reading it on my work break and something major was happening. As my lunch break ticked over I literally had to FORCE myself to put the book down. I had a crazy conversation in my head about priorities and work responsibility that just kept being met by my whingy inner-child who answered with 'But it's my BIRTHDAY!'. The point of telling you this is so you understand the depth of my rapture for this book.
Then, the flashbacks started. Now Simons had been EFFECTIVELY using flashbacks to keep up tension and give the reader an understanding of Alexander's childhood up till that point but then she made a big mistake. There was about 150 pages in the middle of the novel that I was forced to skim as the author retold the story of Tatiana and Alexander. Seriously, she retold a condensed version of The Bronze Horseman. Now being that she wrote both books in third person, I can honestly not for the life of me understand why she did that if not just to fill up space. No new information was revealed.
Needless to say, my enthusiasm for the book was considerably curbed at that point. I forced myself to keep reading but it took me another two weeks to get through. It was actually the idea of going on to read my other birthday books that spurred me to hurry up and finish this one.
And then something surprising happened.
I got hooked again.
The ending to the novel was as breathtaking as the start and Simons was completely redeemed for her sagging middle. The story of Tatiana and Alexander is so powerful that it could probably carry even the most boring plot but Simons's magic is that her plot, most of the time, is as frenetic as her main character's love scenes. The remind me of a Russian Jamie and Claire, a Russian Nathaniel and Elizabeth, a Russian Henry and Claire. They are a love of such passionate, violent proportions that the Red Army can't keep them apart.
So, as faithfully as one of Stalin's commrades I will read 'The Summer Garden' even though the size does make me a little dubious. I am well and truly captured by Tatiana and Alexander and I just have to know what becomes of them.