The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

TitleThe Diamond Eye
AuthorKate Quinn
TypeHistorical Fiction World War II
View/Purchase (Non affiliate)Amazon
FinishedApril 30, 2022

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I’d read three historical fiction novels in 2022 about people in World War II I’d have said “No way!” But sure enough three of my last four reads were centered on characters in that war; one about English women (The Rose Code by Kate Quinn), one about an Italian man (Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan), and now The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn. I didn’t consciously pick the books as some theme; it just happened.

This novel is about Lyudmila (Mila) Pavlichenko who was a Russian sniper in the fight against the Nazis in Ukraine. She had over 300 confirmed kills. Being a very young single mother after her husband, Alexei, dumps (but doesn’t divorce) her, Mila learns that she has to be perfect in everything she does in order to succeed. She learns to shoot as a reaction to her patronizing husband; then when the Nazis invade she volunteers for the war. She fights through the expected derision of a woman in combat to become a leader. Mila becomes famous and takes part in a Russian delegation to the United States formed to drum up support for American to start a second front. Through this she met President Roosevelt and built a friendship with Eleanor.

I found the novel to be compelling in its description of the war from the Russian perspective. The novel is a well written, fast-paced, action story laced with human relationships. It’s not as engrossing as The Rose Coded, but still quite good.

The Russians had more women on the front lines than any of the other warring countries. Reading this during the Russian invasion of Ukraine I find it interesting that while Mila was Ukrainian she identified herself as a Russian fighting an invader. Ironic.

In her Author’s Notes Kate Quinn explains that “[m]any of the feats describe dint his novel … are drawn directly from the memoir Lyudmila wrote later in life.” [p 421]. And while “nearly every person named comes straight from the historical record” [p 426] I assume there is a lot of fictional drama in the cat and mouse game with the marksman aiming to assassinate FDR. 

Quinn notes “[i]t’s sometimes said that World War II was won with British Intelligence, American Steel, and Soviet Blood.” Having read her novels on the British and Russians, if she writes one about an American woman in the war it will go to the top of my stack.

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