A decade ago, I spent almost ten hours, many of which occurred when I should have been sleeping, reading Paullina Simons’ debut novel, The Bronze Horseman. It’s a historical romance novel, about a young Russian woman and a soldier during the Siege of Leningrad. Although Simons’ approach to the romance is a bit shaky — a lot of endless teasing and kind of unusual lovemaking (although nothing graphic) — I nevertheless think that it is a book that’s really worth reading.
In all my many years of reading a lot of novels and history books, I’ve seldom read such a vivid recreation about what it’s like to survive (or die during) a modern siege. We often associate siege warfare with Biblical or Medieval times, but this book is a reminder that the events in Simons’ book happened slightly more than 70 years ago.
During the Nazi’s brutal Siege of Leningrad, which lasted almost two-and-a-half years, more than 1.5 million soldiers and civilians died, with some resorting to cannibalism to stave off death, while another 1.4 million women and children were evacuated, only to have an unknown number of them die during the evacuation process. According to Wikipedia (which I believe is accurate here), the battle between the Russians, on the one hand, and the Germans, Finns, and Italians, on the other hand, “caused the greatest destruction and the largest loss of life ever known in a modern city.”