Mr. Robbins doe an excellent job in describing not only the supposed duel between Zaitsez and Thorvald (which is still being debated by historians) but his ability to paint the picture of a city ravaged by the opposing forces is phenomenal. The fortitude of the Russians to fight for the Rodina, not for political ideology but for themselves and the thousands of Russians caught in the grips of the Nazi war machine. Will the battle bring them victory or will is be just another conquered city along with thousands of others?
As military fiction, I learned nothing about the character or nature of war. As historical fiction, I didn't come away feeling like I had some understanding of the Siege of Stalingrad or gained any insight into the real figures that fought there. As fiction, the characters felt flat, almost stereotypes, suitable for a comic book perhaps but nothing else. The whole thing was just a mess that felt a waste of my time.
The below review copied from Publishers Weekly : "Set in the rubble of Stalingrad during WWII, Robbins's second novel hinges on a dramatic mano a mano confrontation between a Russian sniper and his German counterpart during a pivotal stretch of the historic 1942 siege. Tania joins the fight for Russia after she travels to Minsk in hopes of rescuing her grandparents, only to watch them die at the hands of the Germans." Robbins does a brilliant job of dissecting the unique mindset and steely emotions that snipers must possess and painting the battle scenes, but none of the primary characters escapes war novel clich s.
When I get around to reading them I suspect I'll feel more satisfied. Generally a beautifully written, high tension, character-driven story by one of the nicest, smartest people I know!
That's quite something, coming from a person of notoriously squishy sensibilities whose last encounter with what you might call a war novel was a required reading of The Killer Angels in tenth grade. (Indeed, I've read that the movie added a love triangle - as if, "we're in the middle of wartime Stalingrad being hunted by a Nazi supersniper" isn't enough tension for the relationship.) Interestingly - especially given that the author is a Jewish guy whose parents both served in WWII - none of the Nazis is shown as tied in any way to the specifically Nazi atrocities. There are no concentration camp scenes, no cold-blooded shooting of civilians outside the field of battle (except for in Tania's flashback to her grandparents' deaths), and almost no mention of Jews or Hitler's philosophy.
While it is impossible for anyone who was not stuck in the hell of Stalingrad Robbins does a good job at recreating it on the page.
The Russians refused to budge and made the Germans pay for every foot of bombed-out city. The Russians created a special group of talented snipers who managed to put fear into the German soldiers. How she got to Stalingrad as part of an elite sniper team is an interesting story in itself.
There are four main characters, two Russians and two Germans. The Russian snipers are certainly real. What I did like was that the book also was about the harsh conditions the soldiers went through at that battle, both Russian and German alike.
David decided to attend Psychology school, having an affinity for people's stories and a fascination with woe. He is the founder of the James River Writers (Jamesriverwriters.org) a non-profit group in his hometown of Richmond that helps aspiring writers and students work and learn together as a writing community. He also co-founded The Podium Foundation (thepodiumfoundation.org), a non-profit which brings writing and critical reasoning programs to the students of Richmonds city high schools, as well as support programs for city educators. David resides in Richmond, near the James River.