“Once upon a time, in Stonington, Maine, before sunset, at the end of a hot war and the beginning of a cold one, a young woman dressed in white, outwardly calm but with trembling hands, sat on a bench by the harbor, eating ice cream.”
The third part of a trilogy that is part love story and part war-time (and post war-time) saga, The Summer Garden is the story of Tatiana and Alexander, a Russian peasant girl and an American serving in the Red Army. They met during World War II, fell in love, married and had a baby boy. The earlier books, which I admit I have not yet read, deal with Alexander’s imprisonment and Tatiana’s daring rescue of her beloved from the Gulag. This novel takes place in the United States, with the married lovers trying to forget their past and move on with their lives together, as a family.
Simons really does write very well, and based on the background story, I am looking forward to reading the earlier books in the trilogy. However, this last one had some issues that should have been addressed. The book was far too long for the subject matter. The first 140 pages showed the couple moving from town to town. It could have been summed up in a couple of paragraphs and then moved on to the first real conflict in the story (which should have been more drawn out). The troubled marriage in the center of the story (conflict #2), didn’t seem worthy of the characters. Rather than really resolving their issues, their troubles magically go away because Tatiana gets pregnant. Seems quite unrealistic. The best part was the third part of the book (conflict #3), which has Alexander playing Rambo to rescue his son in Vietnam. There is another story woven into the book, which shows some events in Tatiana’s childhood. While this part didn’t particularly fit in with the more modern story-line, it was my favorite part. I would have loved it if the entire work was a prequel to The Bronze Horseman. Tatiana in post-revolution USSR makes for a much more interesting tale.
3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2011