I read to escape and to learn. I like science fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers and adventure stories.
I wasn’t sure how I would react to this book. Some of my friends rated it 2 stars and others awarded it five. Unexpectedly, somewhere around the half way point and in the midst of nursing my daughter through a fever, I found myself wanting to pick up the book over and over again. I was sucked right in and by the end was very invested in the outcome.
I enjoyed the friendship and banter that developed between young Lev and the deserter Kolya. I thought Kolya was a really interesting character because for such a young man, he seemed to have a lot of confidence and I appreciated that he was kind and protective towards Lev instead of being a bully.
There are some fairly graphic and realistic scenes of cruelty and violence along with lots of boys locker room talk but I wasn’t offended. It seemed to be a pretty accurate and uncensored rendering of men’s internal and in this case external dialogue. I’m not saying I didn’t find some of it gross and I certainly have never fantasized about licking the skin of a strange, filth encrusted man EVER but I think guys may be a little different. It seems to be a common theme in wartime books that when one’s sense of life and death is heightened, all of these base bodily functions become more urgent or important.
I appreciate that the author didn’t sugar coat all of the gruesome and violent acts depicted during the siege. There was no romanticizing of war here. I haven’t read a book like this in a long time and it reminds me as I sit here in my cozy apartment that under certain conditions human beings are capable of desperate acts. So, while I think just about everything that happened was horrifying, the message that I take away from this book is that amidst extremely traumatic events unexpected friendships can blossom, love can grow, people do survive and go on.
Review written July 20, 2010