About The Author:
Belinda Alexandra has been published to wide acclaim in Australia and internationally. She is the daughter of a Russian mother and an Australian father and has been an intrepid traveller since her youth. Her love of other cultures is matched by her passion for her home country, Australia, where she is a volunteer carer for the NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES).
Belinda is also an ambassador for the World League for the Protection of Animals (Australia) and lives in Sydney with her husband, Mauro, and a menagerie of adored pets.
About The Book:
A love bigger than a war. A beautiful woman lost. A mystery unsolved … until now.
2000: The wreckage of a downed WWII fighter plane is discovered in the forests near Russia’s Ukrainian border. The aircraft belonged to Natalya Azarova, ace pilot and pin-up girl for Soviet propaganda, but the question of her fate remains unanswered. Was she a German spy who faked her own death, as the Kremlin claims? Her lover, Valentin Orlov, now a highly-decorated general, refuses to believe it.
Lily, a young Australian woman, has moved to Moscow to escape from tragedy. She becomes fascinated by the story of Natalya, and when she meets an elderly woman who claims to know the truth behind the rumours, Lily is drawn deeper into the mystery.
From the pomp and purges of Stalin’s Russia through the horrors of war and beyond – secrets and lies, enduring love and terrible betrayal, sacrifice and redemption all combine in this sweeping saga from Belinda Alexandra
Aspects I Enjoyed:
~Choice of Topic: As I have previously stated, I have a big interest in history (especially Revolutionary History) and Russian History is a topic I enjoy immensely. I loved hearing a fictional account of “The Night Witches” and mechanics, there are far too many historical fiction novels of World War Two where the female main character is nurse (not that there is a problem with the nursing profession, in fact coming from a family of nurses, I have a high respect for it), however it’s good see a different perspective and see an expansion on the acceptable roles for women in History.
~Excellent Choice of Narrative Elements: The plot is good (however the pacing was slower than I would have preferred), there are multiple points of view (after all war effects lots of people and can have a different effect on different people), the author has clearly done lots of research on the cult of Stalin and the Auschwitz concentration camp, but even though it’s depressing at times, the characters are interesting and engaging.
~Tearjerker: Be prepared to read this with a box of tissues, Belinda Alexandra know exactly how to pull on those heart-strings, especially with regards to the large stray animal population around Moscow
Aspects I Had Problems With:
~Token Romance: One of the reasons Lily takes the job in Russia and agrees to move there is to get away from Australia for a while, the reason she wants to get away from her home-town and Australia for a while is because her childhood-friend and fiancé died of a brain tumor before they were able to get married. Now, the loss and grieving process in this novel is taken seriously and written well, however there is a small Romantic sub-plot involved. Lily works full-time at her job in Russia, helps out at her local animal shelter and helps take in stray animals, also adopts an elderly lady and manages to take care of her (with the help of her friend, so she’s not doing all of this by herself). As far as I’m concerned, Lily does not have time for a love-life (which could have been on purpose and is completely understandable).
I understand that a lot of readers won’t have problems with this romance sub-plot, after all a couple of the over arching themes are that the ones we love are always apart of us and how we can’t allow misery and pain to define us or prevent us from living our lives. Those are good themes and completely in tune with the Russian culture of survival against the odds, however I felt that the sub-plot that was shoe-horned in. Dr Luka was important to the plot, but the novel wouldn’t be any different if Lily and him weren’t dating, I felt that the romantic sub-plot didn’t add anything to the overall narrative and the novel was interesting and engaging enough without it.
Overall, a great historical fictional novel by a talented Australian author, I highly recommend it, even if the plot and pacing are a little slow, it all comes together in the end.