Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Am Finished

Spoiler Alert:  Do not read unless you have read the entire Bronze Horseman series by Paullina Simons.

I can't even form sentences right now because I am just spent.  I was finishing the book tonight and my husband looked over at me on the couch...and I caught him completely off guard with my red eyes.  I made two trips to the bathroom for tissues before finally conceding and bringing the box into the family room.  And not over war...or death...or people starving in the streets of Leningrad.  No, Carol has to cry herself to sleep over Thanksgiving dinner.  And bread. (oh god I'm starting again).  And an 80 year old man who loves his wife so much that he grabs her and kisses her in the pantry so as to have a second alone with her amidst dinner preparations in their chaotic but deliriously happy life.

This series got to me like no other.  I love reading about history...but when the history is so recent that it's something my own parents lived through...it truly envelopes my soul and refuses to let go.

What am I crying over now?  My grandmother.  Baking.  The way she used to knead that dough and roll the cinnamon and butter in it...and let me sneak tastes because I was 6 years old and couldn't take my eyes off her...or her sticky buns.

A little background... My grandmother was born in Naples in 1907 and brought to the US as a young girl.  In 1922, when she was 15 years old, she was married off to a 23 year old man she had met only once.  She had her first baby when she was 16...her last when she was 31...and celebrated 71 wedding anniversaries before losing the only love she ever knew when he was 94...and her own life a few years later when she was 89.

It wasn't Leningrad...and she didn't have a husband who went to war.  But she took care of everyone and was the thread that held my father's family together - through thick and thin.  So in a small way, I am reminded of my grandmother tonight.  I can't remember the last time I was able to feel her so vividly in my mind.

That is what Tatiana has done for me.  That is what Alexander has brought to me.  They have made me look at my life - in all its mundane madness  - and appreciate the creaks in my floorboards and the island in my kitchen.  The one whose counter I will clean a million times tomorrow due to stray crayons and sticky fingers.

As far as the books go, I can't even begin to talk about everything Tatiana and Alexander went through ...because I am a blubbering idiot right now and there is no way I'm able to give them their proper credence.  (Also because my bed is calling to me from upstairs and my husband - like Alexander - is wondering what the heck I'm doing down here so late.)

I must say this:  I could not have loved the end of the book/series any more than I do.  Christie - et al - you were so, so right.  My absolute thanks to Paullina for keeping Tania and Shura alive at the end...because now they will forever be alive in my memory.

Now if you'll excuse me, I really must hit the hay.  I have a lot of googling to do tomorrow...Leningrad being the first order of business...and PaullinaSimons.com being the 2nd. :)

32 comments:

  1. Yeah... everything you said. Georgie looked at me a couple of times and i had tears in my eyes and she said "are you okay?" and i just nodded. She's going to read them when I'm in china... will be interesting to talk to her about them too. So glad you loved it.

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  2. That's exactly the reason I was so emotional through reading the ending, because it totally made me think of my grandparents too. My grandparents are from Europe too and although not badly affected by WWII they still had to "escape" across borders,sending my mum and aunty (as toddlers) before them onto relatives in Austria. The cooking factor also hits home with me. Everyone in my family loves my grandma's cooking and we all have special stories and memories of it. She is the core of the family.

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  3. I loved these books and was also thrilled to find Tania and Shura alive, well, in love and happy at the end. Like the Outlander series, I am so happy these authors show husbands and wives in middle age and beyond, still in love and making love. Sex doesn't end in your 40's unless you want it to end.

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  4. Oh, Carol, I'm crying all over again.... Thank you for encouraging me to read these books by writing this blog. I didn't think that anything could hold a candle to Outlander, but this series has completely blown me away. All hail Paullina!

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  5. I can't wait to read more of Paulina's books! I haven't cried over a series like this since Outlander and Into the Wilderness. I kept thinking of my Grandparents as well. They were stuck in China when Japan invaded Hong Kong during WWII. They finally got out after almost a year. They actually ended up meeting on the ship over to NY. It is such a romantic story. My Grandfather passed away almost 25 years and ago, and my grandmother never remarried or has dated anyone. He is the love of her life! It is interesting when they were coming back on the boat a journalitst wrote a book about the time she spent in Hong Kong and the boat trip back to NY. She also wrote about my great grandparents are part of the book! You have to love what books bring alive and how they tell you a story! Jen

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  6. Jennifer!! You have to read The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee. You will relate to it because of your grandparents. I can't imagine what they went through. The book is like TBH - it gives you a bird's eye view of what life was like as a prisoner in China at that time.

    I bet we all have interesting stories about our grandparents because of that time period and what so many people went through. What will my grandchildren say about me? Wow she really spent a lot of time on her computer. Not exactly tragic or romantic, eh? ;)

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  7. Ok... So what to read next?! Any ideas? I have not read Into The Wilderness, maybe that?
    Don't get me wrong, I don't look forward to leaving Tatiana and Alexander behind, and I can't wait for a chat (keeping my fingers crossed!) but if I don't move on I become too sad. And I can't function! I need to be reading!! (plus I'm going on beach vaca next week!)
    :) Michelle

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  8. Carol, I will have to check that book out. It is interesting to hear my grandmother talk about the time she spent hiding out and with out having food to eat. The whole time listening to Tatinana, brought back those memories about her time there. Also the abuse the Japanese soldiers did to her as well. Paulina really did capture those feelings, and desperation people felt in those situations. It was a very difficult time period for my grandmother to talk about. So it is interesting to hear my father and his siblings tell the story as well. I hear what your saying about what out grandchildren and children will say about our lives. We should be blessed we do live in the time we do! Jen

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  9. It's amazing how these books evoke so many memories for so many people. I never thought I'd daydream about the white nights of St. Petersburg (why didn't I? they seem so amazing!) and never really knew what the siege on Leningrad entailed. And I have a new appreciation for what it means to love someone for a lifetime and to be a part of your marriage for better or worse - with all the pain and joy it brings. I love reading the other comments about your grandparents, their stories, and what a different era it was. It seems so far away but the great part of the end of Tatiana and Alexander's story being in the "present day" (because to me they are totally still around and so in love) reminded me that it is all still alive and well in the present day!

    After this series, I kind of cooled my heels reading a lot of Scandinavian mysteries :-) Total polar opposites! I think I needed a rest too and this re-read was intense :-)

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  10. That's what my children say about me--that boring old mom, she spends all her time at the computer. The war, the white nights, the love, it all boils down to mom at her computer. Once in a while, there is also blinchiki.
    :)

    Paullina

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  11. "It all boils down to mom at her computer." Tremendous quote. Thank you Miss Paullina, for making me feel better about my close relationship with my MacBook Pro. :)

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  12. Ijust finished Summer Garden and am in Tania and Shura withdrawals! So hated it to end. Now what to read?? Nothing at the bookstore looks good after Jamie, Claire, Tania and Shura. Anyone here going to the Poisoned Pen Monday night for Diana's book signing? I'll be there and would love to meet other purgatory gals.

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  13. Carol, I posted this once before but I think it was during a time you were not reading the posts to avoid spoilers. You mentioned googling Leningrad...

    Check out www.kommunalka.co gate.edu I happened across this page trying to see exactly what that little stove looked like (the one they cooked on and burned the kitchen tables and chair in) and anyway this site came up first. I browsed through the site and it is amazing seeing the apartments I could just see Tatiana and her family in these places! And there is s hot of a hallway and I could totally see Crazy Slavin laying on the floor!

    When is Tracey suppose to start TBH? Will she pick up and blog along while she is reading? Does she know what she is in for?

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  14. JenniferTN - I can't believe what I'm watching. Beauty goes hand in hand with squalor in some instances. The windows...the fixtures...the high ceilings...gorgeous. And then you see the wall behind the toilet or the roach strips on the wall in the kitchen and can't imagine living that way. (It upset me that one section mentioned the sink breaking in the bathroom...and stayed that way because no one "bothered to fix it".

    A few things: The kitchen is so much bigger than I expected. It seems like the Metanovs were the only ones cooking most of the time. The lavatory...wow. The newspaper for the seat? (If they don't bring their own!) Really makes me appreciate what I have.

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  15. Hi Guys, I ran in to this blog after searching for anything to do with Tatiana and Alexander. A few days ago I finished reading the whole series of TBH, I was going through some really painful withdrawals. Like many of you I found myself sobbing and crying so many nights all by myself, there is not a kleenex factory near but I stock up on the weekends. I read all your comments from theTBH, T&A and TSG and a lot of the emotions just came back again, Im not gonna read anything for a wile and I don't think a can re-read the whole series (I just don't think I can go through that pain again).
    What I got out of the books is that I"m in the same situation Shura was, with meaningless life, no clear future, and I realized that all I want is someone I can love so much for the rest of my life, someone I can (to quote the book) "To cross the street. To follow her. And she will give you your life meaning, she will save you. Yes, yes-to cross.

    Allan

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  16. Awesome, I had no idea you were blogging this series!

    I am a HUGE Outlander fan and have read ALL the books a few times over, but I cannot bring myself to re-read the Bronze Horseman Trilogy. I just can't go through all that heartbreaking emotion again. I may have become teary a few times throughout Outlander, but I out and out sobbed at the end of The Secret Garden. This series is at the top of my list too.

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  17. I just finished The Summer Garden today - Wow, that trilogy is one of the finest pieces of writing I've come across in ages - definitely up there with the Outlander series (only read up through Fiery Cross...a couple more to go...). Carol, I cannot thank you enough for recommending this series!!!

    On another note, in reading through the various comments, I see Into the Wilderness has been suggested several times. IMO, this book is disappointing when compared to the writing of Diana or Paullina. I do have the second book, and at some point will read it in the hopes the author has improved. I would be curious to read anyone else's opinion of ITW, I do realize lots of people love it.

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  18. Allan, Leslie and Julia - welcome - you guys are awesome. Isn't the series amazing? I wish I could discover it again.

    Speaking of discovering...Allan - I want you to find someone to walk across the street for! I am sending you happy vibes. And if you haven't read the Outlander series, you might like that too. Totally different (18th century Scotland)...but it is also historical fiction with a fantastic romance. :)

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  19. Thanks for those vibes Carol, That was one of the best series I had read, I got my aunt and a friend in to them.
    I will look in to the Outlander series once I finish reading The Confederance of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. It has become one of my favorites, it is funny and very well written. Look it up guys, you'll like it.
    also I'm planing on reading some of the previous books by Mrs. Simons, I heard the kind of good.
    I'll keep checking this site from time to time. thanks again.

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  20. Melanie - Melbourne, AustraliaSeptember 30, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    Hello fellow TBH lovers,
    I just finished the trilogy this morning, what an amazing brilliant saga. Never read anything that had gripped me, absorbed and engulfed me this much, I would think of Tatiana and Shura even while I'd be washing dishes, or cooking dinner, or out with friends.
    I want to get my hands on everything else Paullina has written now! :)

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  21. Try A Song in the Daylight - that's the only other one I've read (so far); another emotional ride but VERY different from the trilogy.

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  22. I recommend all books by PS. All are wonderful. I read TBH when it first came out. I cried for days...I re-read it a year later...cried again. I have since re-read it every year. Finally, two years ago, I looked up to see if PS wrote anything else...I finally got to learn what happened to our Tatia and Shura. I am glad I did not know there were sequals. Now, when I give this book, I NEVER let anyone know about the sequels. I am glad to read that other people were just as affected as I was. Thanks to Paullina.

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  23. Welcome Anonymous! We're glad to have you here to talk about our Tatia and Shura! :)

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  24. I finished the trilogy last week and I have been cooking from Tatianas Table for the last 7 days. I have been left haunted by these books, and even more so by Tatiana and Alexander.

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  25. All finished. Sigh.
    Now I'm drowning my sorrows in Rachmaninov's beautiful music:

    http://youtu.be/OkBZQQzQ8XA
    http://youtu.be/rgvqdo2lcic
    http://youtu.be/kU8RwT8ODHA

    Now I suppose I'll have to re-read!

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  26. I finished the series a couple of weeks ago. One quote that made me think, towards the end of The Summer Garden was, "I don't want this life to end", said by Alexander. This really struck me. Their lives were so full. Whether is was horrible trials or blissful love - they really lived. They were full of passion, and they were strong. Makes you feel badly for the times we sit around contemplating our navels when we could be living stronger.

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  27. I finished reading the series a couple of weeks ago, and have been having serious withdrawals. Love this blog so much and reading your reactions to these books makes me want to pick them up again, maybe I'll have to skip through and reread some of my favourite scenes. Think I'm also going to need to find a copy of Outlander to read during my next uni break seeing as you've mentioned it a few time.
    Rachel

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  28. I just discovered this series a few weeks ago and have begun re-reading through the second book. I don't like the changes in Shura's character in the last book, even though I understand the reasons behind them. But I am definitely in withdrawals and looking for another series of this caliber. I have read the Outlander Series in its entirety several times and also ITW and its sequel, though I wasn't as impressed with ITW. Any suggestions?

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    1. Oh Jengaleb. I wish I had some suggestions. I really do. I search for them every day. I don't have any for a series as good as The Bronze Horseman or Outlander. I have some fun reads (total "candy" for the eyes) but no epic reads like this. Check out The Book Bosses (TheBookBosses.blogspot.com) - Hildy and JJ run a super fun book recommendation site and you might find some suggestions for things you may like there. :) OH and PS - have you read the prequels to the Bronze Horseman series?? Children of Liberty is fantastic!! I haven't read Bellagrand yet (continuation of Children of Liberty; about Shura's parents) but I know I will love it. (I have to be in the right place, mentally, for that one...and will blog it as I read.)

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  29. I stumbled upon this blog after I'd finished reading TBH for the 4th or 5th time. I needed to feel that there were others who were just as consumed by the series as I have been - just to make sure that I'm not completely insane. Though I usually find romance novels to be far too melodramatic and have NEVER read anything recommended by my mother (oops), this series has broken my heart, healed me and given me hope for a life that is truly worth living. The first time I read TBH was in 2011 and I finished it in 2days, completely neglecting my boyfriend. I had no idea it was part of a series and neither did my mother. We cried together and cried and cried and for months I was depressed, constantly thinking what a hopeless love T and A had. To ease my pain and sought out other Paullina Simons books - specifically 'Tully' (which I still have never found). I stumbled upon 'A Song in the Daylight' and was transformed by it in a completely different way.
    Finding nothing else to read I began reading other books like 'A Thousand Spledid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini. I highly recommend this book, it is right up there with TBH. Then one day out of the blue, over a year later, as I was searching for 'Tully' once again at the book store I found 'Tatiana and Alexander'. My heart stopped. I must have looked a fool in the shop just gaping at the book afraid to pick it up even. I bought it, then went online to see if there were more and bought The Summer Garden e-book, share the books with my mother and the rest is history for me.
    Thank you for this blog. Thank you Paullina Simons. Thank you Tatiana and Shura.
    P.S. I absolutely loved watching the characters grow and seeing Alexander transformed and become more imperfect. After everything they went through it would have been a disservice to the characters to have them work out any other way. The changes and growth made them even more tangible (as if that were possible) and more heroic in the end. God help me find a love like this in my life?!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Birdy. I'm thrilled people come across my blog and love Shura and Tatiana as much as I do. :) Make sure to check Facebook - there are Bronze Horseman sites there where you can be part of the discussion. Also - Paullina Simons has a Facebook page and is on Twitter, as well. :)

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  30. Consumed. Haunted. Such perfect words to describe how these books have left me. I can't stop thinking about them, dreaming about them, and I don't know what to do now. I feel rimmed to every other book in the world now. I need something else to read that will compare with this series, to help with my Tatiana and Alexander hangover :(

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