The Diamond Eye, by Kate Quinn is astonishingly good. You may remember me raving about The Rose Code. This is another to rave about. Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the opportunity for an ARC.
The Diamond Eye
by Kate Quinn
In 1937 in the snowbound city of Kiev (now known as Kyiv), wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son–but Hitler’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper–a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her three hundredth kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour.
Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC–until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life.
Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever. [goodreads]
It was more than interesting reading this in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In World War 2, Ukraine was one part of the Soviet Union, although Russia took the leading role. So the context of the fighting gains a sort of pathos and makes you wonder: what if my country changed its allegiances? Some of the background to this fighting will be familiar if you’ve read Roland Clarke’s short stories of the Night Witches, the female fighter pilots, as featured in one of the IWSG Anthologies.
But we are thrown into the situation that the Nazis are invading Soviet territitory, and all ablebodied people are needed to fight. Not many of them are women, and the conditions for women are even worse than for the men – because of the men. A girl has to learn how to handle herself pretty quickly if she’s on the front line. And for Mila, she not only learns fast, but she learns well, the only thing to do is focus. You only have one chance.
Really, the strength of this book is the biography of Mila in the army. The author adds an addendum to explain where the factual basis comes from, and where she made artistic licence, and that all makes complete sense.
But when Mila is injured sufficiently to be sent on a propaganda tour to Washington, she tries everything to get out of it, before accepting the inevitable. Then she approaches it with her deadly focus. This turns into as interesting, and gripping, a story as the war words. I don’t know if Eleanor Roosevelt was everything portrayed here, but if so, the allies were lucky to have her.
This is a masterful book, that lives long in the memory, and I’m hoping to find time to reread it. It’s worth it.