I absolutely loved this! It’s a prequel to Lilac Girls, which I never did actually read. And having read little about this it wasn’t until I read the Author’s Note at the end that I realized that this was not only a prequel about the generation before the (apparently?) main character of Lilac Girls, but also that these were real people! I thought it was just general historical fiction and had no idea so much of it (people, their homes, their businesses) was actually real.
The setting is World War I and it takes place in America and Russia, as well as Paris. Basically all the Russian history was fascinating and unknown to me. I seem to know much less about WWI than WWII. I loved all the details about the peasants and the aristocrats and the scenery itself (wolves and woods) was fascinating.
The main characters are the two close friends Sofya (Russian) and Eliza (American). Each desperately hopes the other is safe and the p.o.v. switches back and forth between them, as well as another girl, Varinka. Varinka is a Russian peasant who definitely has an atrocious, truly awful, life. And yet, I disliked her. Much of the Russian conflict had me thinking that both the peasants and the tsar’s regime were acting like savage animals and one was not better than the other. There was some fairly horrifying stuff in here. Of course I loved the resiliency and bravery of Sofya and Eliza as each dealt with the impact of the war in different ways-Sofya was more a matter of actual survival, while Eliza found a way to channel her own sorrows into helping others
A fascinating and riveting read.