The Bridge to Holy Cross is a powerful story of love and hope — a passionate and epic love story from the Russian-born author of The Bronze Horseman. The world at war …two people in love. Tatiana is eighteen years old and pregnant when she miraculously escapes war-torn Leningrad to the West, believing herself to be a widow. Her husband, Major Alexander Belov, a decorated hero of the Soviet Union, has been arrested by Stalin’s infamous secret police and is awaiting imminent death as a traitor and a spy. Tatiana begins her new life in America. In wartime New York City she finds work, friends and a life beyond her dreams. However, her grief is inescapable and she keeps hearing Alexander calling out to her. Meanwhile, Alexander faces the greatest danger he’s ever known. An American trapped in Russia since adolescence, he has been serving in the Red Army and posing as a Soviet citizen to protect himself. For him, Russia’s war is not over, and both victory and defeat will mean certain death. As the Second World War moves into its final violent phase, Tatiana and Alexander are surrounded by the ghosts of their past and each other. They must struggle against destiny and despair as they find themselves in the fight of their lives. A master of the historical epic, Paullina Simons takes us on a journey across continents, time, and the entire breadth of human emotion, to create a heartrendingly beautiful love story that will live on long after the final page is turned.
WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR BOOK #1
Ok, that was hard. A necessary evil, I feel.
“Tania, last time in Morozovo, I let you go, but not this time. This time we live together or we die together.”
Right, I’m going to admit, I did skim a little. There was quite a lot of political talk and history lessons in this book, much more so than in the first book. However, it was completely necessary, I understand that. But I did skim, and try to only take in what I absolutely needed to know.
Hey, what can I say? I needed to get Tatiana and Alexander back together ASAP.
“Shura, I’m yours. You may not like it today, you may not want it tonight, you may wish for it all to be different now, but it remains, and I remain, as always, only yours. Nothing can change that. Not your wrath, your fists, your body or your death.”
There was a lot of flicking back and forth between past and present in this book. There were memories, for both Tatiana and Alexander. From Leningrad, from Luga, from Lazarevo. It goes back to when Alexander was a boy, in America, leaving America, living in the Soviet Union…
“We’re moving cities, we’re changing our name just like this hotel. You call that all right?”
“Yes,” she said. “We still have each other. We still have our lives.”
“How the definition of being all right changes,” said Alexander.
This books goes back to a lot of things that you have already read about in book one and expands upon them, going into detail and depth, developing the characters pasts.
The Field of Mars, June, death, life, white nights, Dasha, Dimitri, the all came…
But there Alexander still was, standing on that street, on that curb, in the sun, looking at her under the elms, looking at provenance across from him provenance in a white dress with red roses, licking her ice cream with red lips, singing. His and only his for one hundred minutes, blink of an eye and gone. It all was.
I have to say, as interesting as a lot of that was, I just wanted to move forward and resolve the current issues. I couldn’t bare the intense sense of desperation that is on every single page of this book. It was excruciating!
“Tania,” he whispers, “promise me you won’t forget me when I die.”
“You won’t die, soldier,” she says. “You won’t die. Live! Live on, breathe on, claw onto life, and do not let go. Promise me you will live for me, and I promise you, when you’re done, I will be waiting for you.” She is sobbing. “Whenever you’re done, Alexander, I will be here, waiting for you.”
So, let’s talk about that. If you thought that Tatiana and Alexander had it difficult in book #1, my God, that was nothing compared to what Alexander goes through in book #2.
Alexander looked into the barrel of one of the guns. He blinked.
O God, please look after Tania all alone in the world.
Tatiana is in New York, with their son, Anthony, and struggling to live her life with the uncertainty lingering over Alexander’s death. Unable to hold on to him, yet unable to move on without him. You can feel the pain and anguish rolling off of the written words.
Meanwhile, Alexander is still fighting his war. And little by little, you witness him lose strength, determination and faith. It’s horrible. I wanted to scream at my book at times.
During the day she carried her boy, bandaged and fed the wounded, leaving her own festering wounds until night-time when she licked them and nursed them, and remembered the pines and the fish and the river and the ase and the woods and the fire and the blueberries and the smell of cigarette smoke and the loud laughter coming from one male throat.
So, whilst I found this book hard going, the ending totally saved it! Oh my goodness, the ending was amazing. My heart raced and I couldn’t read fast enough! I was bursting with excitement, anxiety, desperation… it was amazing.
“Thank you,” she whispered, “for keeping yourself alive, soldier.”
“You’re welcome,” he whispered back.
I don’t have much more to say. Yes, this book is hard work. But the whole thing is totally worth it and the trials in Tatiana and Alexander have a huge emotional impact on the reader and just add to the intensity of this amazing trilogy. I’m so so excited for book #3!
And then, because she was Tatiana and because she couldn’t help herself, and because he wouldn’t have it any other way, she ran to him and was in his arms.
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