I’ve recently returned from a Baltic cruise on P&O’s Arcadia– a wonderful holiday, with the highlight being the two days we spent in St Petersburg. The Peterhof Palace, the Hermitage and Winter Palace, the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo – these are all settings that have all featured in so many of the books I’ve read over the years, and it was wonderful to finally experience the city itself and the restored opulence of the royal palaces.
I always try to read something suitable for the place I’m visiting, and this time I chose The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. It was really far too long, and took me over a fortnight to read, but I thought the descriptions of the siege of Leningrad were exceptionally well done and really brought the city to life for me. At one point we passed a tram, preserved as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the siege of Leningrad – the day the trams stopped running was the day the residents of Leningrad lost hope of survival. In the novel, hope was restored when tulips and cabbages started to grow in front of St Isaac’s cathedral: on the tour, we also saw the roof garden at the Hermitage where they continued to grow vegetables to help survive. It was also easy to understand how Leningrad could be so isolated and vulnerable – on a spit of land between Lake Ladoga, the Neva river and the Baltic Sea, with a hill behind… Sadly, I was less engaged by the love story – I found some of the long conversational exchanges a bit slow (and skip read) and some of the adventure/action sequences left me a bit cold too. I’m glad I’ve finally got round to reading it, but I don’t think I’ll be tackling the rest of the trilogy.
this one was a fantastic read. There are two story lines, a modern story working backwards and a conventional historical story working towards the time of the revolution. It really does have it all – a terrifying Rasputin, the luxury of the royal palaces, superb portrayal of a life of privilege, and an all-consuming love story. The last line – “So this is what it means to be alone” – had me sobbing my heart out. Superb writing and highly recommended.