A Female Russian Sniper in WWII: The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published March 2022, 435 pages
My sister, Donna, and I have become big Kate Quinn fans and love her historical novels - always about such strong women, usually set around WWII. Though I have to admit I get kind of tired of SO many novels being set in that time period. Surely there were strong women making things happen at other times throughout history. Right???
This story is based on the true story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko (Mila), a young Russian woman who turns her planned life upside down to fight for her country at the beginning of WWII when Germany invaded Russia. She is 20 years old, a single mother with a job, going to night school to be a historian, trying to raise her son, taking an advanced weaponry certification class, and trying to get a divorce from an uninterested husband/father.
"I might be hundreds of kilometers away from my son, but I'd make him feel like his mama was still watching. I sealed the letter and the leaf inside with a kiss, and then wrote another letter to my family. And this one told them I'd become a sniper-soldier and that I planned to take down a thousand Germans and then return home with pride. Somehow I had to be the woman who wrote both kinds of letters and did not fail at either. The mother and the sniper both, succeeding at both."
Russia is invaded and Mila feels compelled to enlist to fight for her country and her son's future. With much fortitude and persistence she finally becomes a sniper for a company. Her success with a rifle leads to promotions, her own platoon and more. The story tells of her time in the trenches with some detail but not particularly graphically - and it also shares the emotions, the bonds and friendships formed under such difficult circumstances.
Stalin realizes he needs American help so sends a group of Russians, including Mila, to make their case to America and to the President (FDR). The last third of the book or so is about her trip to the US, meeting the president and other famous people and how she grows as a person during that time.
It's clear The Diamond Eye is well researched, and then when I read the Author's Notes at the end, Quinn mentions that she used Mila's own memoir as a starting point, so most of the people in the book are based on real people. I liked the way she portrayed Mila as an unlikely hero, someone who preferred being behind the scenes. And a woman who really missed being with her small son.
There's a bit of romance as well as plenty of strife with the husband she's trying to divorce, which I think helps relieve the chapters of war and fighting and death. It actually took me quite a while to get into the rhythm of this book for some reason. I'm not sure why Mila's character, though interesting, never quite grabbed me.
It's definitely another strong book by Quinn, just not my favorite.
Have you read this book yet? Is it on your TBR? Is Kate Quinn a go-to author for you or more a hit-and-miss one? Let me know what you think of this story in the comments.
Photo Church of Spilled Blood, St Petersburg, Russia by Terrie Purkey