Saturday, May 21, 2022

Fiction Review: The Diamond Eye

I've been hearing great things about Kate Quinn's historical novels for years now, and I finally had a chance to try one myself. Her latest, The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn, lived up to my expectations. This fascinating, engrossing story kept me riveted on audio.

Mila Pavlichenko is a young single mother in Kiev in the 1930's, going to school for her history degree and working part-time in a library while caring for her young son. She worries about her son lacking a father-figure, as her ex-husband is rarely around. One thing her son wants his father to do is teach him how to shoot when he gets older, so Mila takes shooting lessons and gets certified. It turns out that she is actually quite good at it, but it's just a fun pastime ... until the Nazis invade Russia. Like many women of the time, Mila signs up to serve in the Russian Army and though she is first assigned to lesser jobs by her male superiors, they soon recognize her exemplary shooting skills and promote her to sniper. Mila becomes one of the best snipers in the Russian Army, soon killing over 300 Nazis on her own. It's horrible at times, being separated from her son and becoming a killer, but she knows she is helping her country.

In 1942, Mila and others in the Russian Army are sent to the United States to meet President Roosevelt and hopefully convince him to join the war effort and create a Western front to help Russia fight off the Nazis. Though Mila is more at home huddled in a ditch in camouflage than in a dress meeting foreign dignitaries, she does her best to represent her country and their needs. She is pleasantly surprised as she gets to know Eleanor Roosevelt better and a bond begins to form between the two women, especially when the Russian contingent goes on tour across the U.S., to drum up support for the war. The narrative shifts back and forth between Mila's wartime experiences and her growing friendship with Eleanor on the American tour, while the danger to her life--and others'--grows, as enemies old and new converge.

It's hard now for me to believe how much I hated history class in school because I love reading historical fiction and narrative nonfiction. This engrossing novel is a great example of how an author can take a small, hidden corner of history and bring it to light. The result is a fascinating and suspenseful reading experience that was excellent on audio, with first-person narration by Saskia Maarleveld who perfectly embodies Mila. As unusual and intriguing as Mila's wartime experience was, I was even more engaged by her time in the U.S. and her friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt. Mila was an extraordinary and complex woman: both a loving mother and a deadly killer. Quinn weaves a captivating narrative thread around the historical facts that was absolutely riveting on audio, building to a suspenseful and thrilling ending.

448 pages, William Morrow


This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Alphabet Soup Challenge - D

Travel the World in Books - Russia

Literary Escapes Challenge - District of Columbia

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.


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  1. I've read another of her books but not this one yet. It does sound so very good. So ironic now to think Russia uses the Ukraine war to tell its people they are fighting the Nazi's!

    1. Yes, you're right - that was definitely on my mind as I listened to this!

  2. I think Kate Quinn does a great job of making history come alive. I agree that high school history was deadly, but I think that's because you and I grew up in an era where the all white male teachers taught memorizing events and military history. When I was in the classroom it had become much more social and cultural history as well and "a story well told"

    1. Ha! Quite true, Helen. Though I did have one super-passionate female history teacher in 9th grade. But I still hated it because I was generally a straight-A student but struggled to get A- in my social studies classes - yeah, a bit of an over-achiever/perfectionist - ha ha. Still working on that :) Glad to hear history class has evolved since then!

  3. Sue, I'm glad you are feeling better. I'll be posting on The Classics Club on Thursday about your Big Book Challenge. Thank you for hosting it for ten years!

    1. That is awesome, Deb!! Thanks so much - I'll look for your post :)