Friday, January 06, 2006
The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons
The Summer Garden is the third book in the trilogy that began with The Bronze Horseman and continued in The Bridge to the Holy Cross (published as Tatiana and Alexander in some places). At this stage it is only published in Australia and New Zealand but hopefully will be published elsewhere soon.
Just a brief overview of the first two books. In the first book, we meet Tatiana on the day that war is declared in Russia in WWII. She is sent out to the shops to get as much food as she can, and along the way she meets Alexander, a young soldier. We then live through the siege of Leningrad with Tatiana and Alexander as they try to survive and their love grows. Along the way, Alexander is injured, family members die, and they become closer and closer to each other. Eventually we find out that Alexander is really an American whose parents moved voluntarily to Russia in the 1930's. Tatiana and Alexander eventually marry and plans are made to escape the USSR.
In the second book, Tatiana is in the US, but Alexander was left behind. She is trying to get on with her life, but she believes that he is still alive and searches for him. We also hear some of what was covered in the first book but from Alexander's point of view which is really good!!
Those are REALLY brief synopsis, but I don't want to spoil for anybody!! Onto this book then.
Tatiana and Alexander have suffered the worst the twentieth century had to offer. After years of separation, they are miraculously reunited in America, the land of their dreams. They have a beautiful son, Anthony. They have proved to each other that their love is greater than the vast evil of the world... but they are strangers. In the climate of fear and mistrust of the Cold War, dark forces are at work in the US that threaten their life and their family. Can they make a new life for themselves in this new land? Can they be happy? Or will the ghosts of yesterday reach out to blight even the destiny of their firstborn son?
Before I start in earnest I will say that whilst there are several things that I didn't think were perfect about this book. However, there is something about the way that Paullina Simons writes that draws me so completely into the world of her characters that despite the faults I come away from reading her books feeling so excited and immersed, and this book was no different. I also can NOT pace myself with her books..I have to devour them and ended up staying up until 2am three or four nights until I finished it! What a ride!!!
Firstly, I felt that there were many situations within the book that were a bit rushed. A couple of the 'bad guy' characters were introduced, did their thing, and then were gone again very quickly. Secondly, the relationship between Tatiana and Alexander at times seems to me to be very oppressive and possessive, at times over the edge, but then once the conflict at that time is resolved then they come back to simply being devoted and so completely in love - an impossible love to achieve in real life? Maybe. And dare I say it, there were possibly a few too many references to love scenes - gasp! A lot of the love scenes weren't detailed at all, just references. I understood that physically was the one way that they could reconnect before they did so emotionally, but every now and again I wanted to move on past the touching!
Despite those things, this book overwhelmingly is a triumph, and more than a fitting conclusion to the amazing story of Tatiana and Alexander. Initially, the little family travels across the US, living in Maine, Florida, California and Arizona amongst places as they try to find where they belong. We also get to hear about Anthony's life, and see all of the Barrington's as they go forward with their lives, always mindful of the past, but with an eye to the future.
I love this whole trilogy, and will definitely be rereading the whole series at some point so that I can, perhaps, slow down and enjoy the series without being so compelled to have to know what happens next!! I highly recommend that people rush out to the shops and get the first book and start reading!! Funnily enough, it was really difficult to write this review because there are so many things that I wanted to talk about but I don't want to spoil for anyone and so have held myself back a little!!
I was so close to rating this a 5 out of 5 even though I did have a couple of issues, but I think that these have to be taken into consideration. I am therefore going with a very strong 4.5 out of 5.
Rating 4.5 out of 5