The Diamond Eye is a World War Two tale, based on the real story of a female sniper in the Russian army.
Teenage bride then single mother and history student, Mila signed up to fight for her family’s future as Germany invaded Russia’s borders.
This is a the story of just one of the many female heroines of war. Mila fought on the Eastern Front and her official sniper kill number was 309. This may have been higher; often kills weren’t verified in the chaos of war. The number could also have been lower as much of the history about Mila’s life came from a memoir written for propaganda purposes. Part of that propaganda involved sending Mila along with other Russian students to America in 1942; their role was to help persuade the American President to commit to joining the war by providing a second front in Europe to divert Hitler’s attentions.
There’s an interesting format to the book; chapters pass back and forth between the fight in Russia and the student delegation in America. Dotted in between are notes from the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, who is said to have befriended Mila during her visit; they remained friends after the war. Often Mila’s chapters begin with an official line from her memoir and then her ‘real’ propaganda-free thoughts and memories of what happened.
I liked it. A lot. Quinn has an ability to make her characters come alive and the details of the settings and atmosphere took me to the heart of the battlefields and beyond as we followed Mila’s life. I always enjoy the extra notes from the author, found at the back of the book, where you get to hear what inspired the story, what they had to work with and how they gave it a literary spin.
Having already enjoyed reading previous war themed books written by Quinn, I was delighted to see a couple of connections, in this book, to the magnificent, Nina from The Huntress. I can happily recommend this to fans of war fiction.
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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.