Publication: September 20. 2016 by HarperCollins
# of Pages: 432
Source: Publisher for Honest Review
From the author of the celebrated, internationally bestselling The Bronze Horseman saga comes a glimpse into the private life of its much loved creator, and the real story behind the epic novels. Paullina Simons gives us a work of non-fiction as captivating and heart-wrenching as the lives of Tatiana and Alexander.
Only a few chapters into writing her first story set in Russia, her mother country, Paullina Simons travelled to Leningrad (now St Petersburg) with her beloved Papa. What began as a research trip turned into six days that forever changed her life, the course of her family, and the novel that became The Bronze Horseman. After a quarter-century away from her native land, Paullina and her father found a world trapped in yesteryear, with crumbling stucco buildings, entire families living in seven-square-metre communal apartments, and barren fields bombed so badly that nothing would grow there even fifty years later. And yet there were the spectacular white nights, the warm hospitality of family friends and, of course, the pelmeni and caviar.
At times poignant, at times inspiring and funny, this is both a fascinating glimpse into the inspiration behind the epic saga, and a touching story of a family's history, a father and a daughter, and the fate of a nation.
I want to start this review by saying that I have not yet read The Bronze Horseman, but after reading the journey of Paullina Simons and her father through Leningrad I'm anxious to dive right into that book. If you are looking for a memoir that includes not only past and modern history, but also a story of cultural identity, passion, understanding, and more then this is definitely a memoir that should be placed high on your to be read list.
Ms. Simons is best known for her work on The Bronze Horseman. It is quite frequently mentioned across several social media networks including Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram. With such a poignant novel, this memoir definitely gives the reader insight to her inspiration between the world created in that book. What was most rewarding about this novel was watching Simons journey back to a country that hasn't changed much since twenty years prior when she left. It is stricken with poverty exhibiting the inability of the country to keep up with modern times. Although this aspect of the book was heartbreaking I was able to relate to her experience. Coming from a family that has roots in Jamaica, I, too, have seen what extreme poverty can do to both a country and its people. I have nothing but good memories of being in Jamaica; however, some of my family members like Paullina's father have tried very hard to forget their own experiences. It is fortunate that Simons was able to take her experiences both negative and positive and create such an amazing work of art in the form of a novel. I really appreciated being able to watch her come to terms with her American experience opposed to her Russian experience. A lot of times seeing the difficulties of one nation can make an individual appreciate all the things that their nation is able to provide. For example, there were a few days in Jamaica that we went without running water and I was forced to take a shower out of a bucket. It did not dawn on me then, but having the opportunity to shower with running water everyday is something I no longer take for granted.
What I can say about this novel is that it provides beautiful insight not only to Simons life, but also her travel experiences and the early stages of writing her novel. It's not often that a reader is provided with the opportunity to see the inspiration behind an authors work of art. The last thing I believe that really made appreciate this memoir was the development of the relationship between Simons and her father. It changed and evolved throughout the novel and in my opinion I truly believe that they learned a lot from each other. It's not common that you get to see that included in a book that already contains so many different elements. If you are a history buff, a fan of Simons, or just curious about how an author develops the plot line for their novel I would definitely recommend picking this up. It contains a little of bit of everything and really makes the reader appreciate the journey one must take to confront the past to assist in the building of a future.
Paullina Simons is an internationally bestsellingauthor whose novels include Bellagrand and The Bronze Horseman was born in Leningrad in 1963. As a child she immigrated to Queens, New York, and attended colleges in Long Island. Then she moved to England and attended Essex University, before returning to America. She lives in New York with her husband and children.