The New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code returns with an unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history's deadliest female sniper. Based on a true story.
In 1937 in the snowbound city of 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.
--I use Goodreads to track and rate my current reading. Most of my reads are 4 stars, meaning I enjoyed it hugely and would absolutely recommend. 5 stars is blew-my-socks-off; reserved for rare reads. 3 stars is "enjoyed it, but something fell a bit short." I very rarely rate lower because I DNF books I'm not enjoying, and don't rate books I don't finish.--
Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network”, “The Huntress,” “The Rose Code,” and "The Diamond Eye." All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.
I love Kate Quinn’s novels, her prose is wonderful and her research is meticulous.
This book reads more like a biography of Lyudmila Pavlichenko “Mila” than historical fiction. In fact in the author’s notes Ms. Quinn states that almost all of the characters and their actions came straight from Mila’s personal memoir.
It’s hard in the current political and world climate for me to feel much sympathy for Russia. However Russians fought hard and lost many thousands in their fight against Hitler and fascism, they were our allies.
From the blurb you know that Mila was a mother, a university student studying history, a marksman and then finally a soldier/sniper for the Russian army. She was also a part of a delegation of Russians who came to the US to try to convince Roosevelt to set up another front.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE BOOK:
The characters!! Ms Quinn fully develops the characters of Mila, her partner, Kostia and her first husband, Alexei. I loved her description and portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt, what a strong, incredible woman she was!
I learned so much about the skill that it took to become a sniper, how incredibly hard it is to perfect a shot from bunkers, bush, trees and buildings.
I felt the descriptions of the war were so vivid it was gripping.
WHAT HELD THIS BACK FROM BEING A 5*:
Too much technical detail about guns and ammunition which I felt myself skimming.
This book was LONG, at 448 pages and filled with details, it was hard not to lose focus.
This book lacked the humor and camaraderie that I loved in The Rose Code.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK? ABSOLUTELY!!!
We Americans need to remember our past and what it was like for the countries who had a war fought on their soil – WE MUST NEVER FORGET!!
I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher, William Morrow, through NetGalley.
Kate Quinn's latest WW2 historical novel throws a welcome light on a little known Ukrainian Russian woman sniper, Lyudmila 'Mila' Pavilichenko, with her record of 300+ sniper kills for a Red Army desperately fighting the German Nazi invasion. It is a blend of fact and fiction that draws heavily on Mila's autobiography, The Memoirs of Stalin's Sniper. A history obsessed student, she is mother to her young son, Slavka, and married to ambitious and arrogant surgeon, Alexei, a man who has no interest in her or their son, and is unco-operative in her efforts to try and divorce him. Having received advanced training as a sniper, she manages to enlist, and becomes a sniper under the command of Captain Sergienko, proving herself to be a valuable asset. Interspersed throughout the story are the notes of American first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, the eyes and ears of Franklin, a man with deadly enemies prepared to do whatever it takes to get rid of him.
The novel opens with Mila in Washington DC as part of a Russian delegation, now fighting the propaganda war, Russia is losing the harrowing war against the German enemy, and badly needs the US to open a second front, and wants arms, equipment and supplies. The reluctant Mila is central to the Russian agenda, but she feels out of her depth as she is denigrated, disbelieved and disrespected by a American media and public that cannot relate to her being a woman sniper and her battlefield experiences, but she becomes significantly more adept as she forges a surprisingly close and warm relationship with Eleanor. However, she is going to need her hard won skills as a sniper as she finds herself the target of a marksman hired for nefarious political purposes. Mila's time as as a sniper are depicted, her rise through the ranks until she commands her own platoon, her silent Siberian partner, Kostia, who she trusts to have her back, the heartbreaking military failures forcing retreats, her loves, the nightmare losses and the agony of unbearable grief.
Quinn portrays what is often forgotten in WW2 history, just how heavy a blood price Russia paid to help defeat the Nazi German regime, and that it wasn't just men who contributed to the war effort, women played a instrumental role too, illustrated here with the spotlight on the battle scarred, PTSD suffering Mila. The book does not shy away from the fact that Russia, the motherland, can be a hard and unforgiving place to make a life, as can be observed with the character of Kostia and the dilemma he faces whilst working as the delegation interpreter in the US. This is riveting historical fiction that held my attention from beginning to end, and I particularly loved the growing development of the remarkable bond between Mila and Eleanor. By the way, there are some wonderful photographs of Mila at the end of the book. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
You will probably not find historical novels better than this one. Quinn manages to make history feel like it’s happening right now. Her characters feel so real that they could be alive, even if they existed in completely different circumstances. The story of the Russian sniper was interesting but also emotional. The rage directed towards the nazi’s, the camaraderie and courage crept under my skin. I never wanted the book to end, spellbound and totally invested in the outcome.
It’s a work of fiction about a woman sniper, based on a real character.
Because I loved “The Rose Code”, my anticipation was too much. I purchased a copy as soon as it was released. Fortunately it was on sale at 40% off, but I could have gotten a copy from the library, for free (which was immediately available through Overdrive/Libby). I did enjoy the writing, as expected, although it was repetitive in some parts, but I wasn’t a fan of the development of the storyline and particularly some of the parts involving romance. I also didn’t think that the structure was very favourable here. There was something missing. I wasn’t engaged or fascinated the way I was with her previous books, and I was bored most of the time. If I hadn’t purchased a copy I would have stopped at 20%. The book could have been shorter. As for the characters, I really did not care for anyone. Unfortunately this one did not impress me, but I have no doubt that it will be a hit with other readers.
PS. Don’t be fooled by its number of pages. It’s a fast read. There are some empty pages, the margins are large and the line spacing must be 1.5, if not 2.00.
It took me some time to get through this one but not because it was a sludge, oh contraire. I was in France- with little luxury time for reading.
Anyone who follows me knows I’ve been gobbling up Ukraine, and Soviet reads. This one takes places when Ukraine was still part of the USSR in 1942. Germany made the bold step to move into Soviet territory in their quest to take over Europe. Mila, is a sharp shooter whose skills make her a Soviet war heroine. But this story is also based on fact and her 309 noted kills. Also known as Lady Death, she was a graduate and historian. But even as that title harbours steel, this is the story of her relationships, single parenting, and the strong female in a time when women were shunned for holding high ranks. And the character development from being a child bride at 15. It’s also about the Soviet culture and how it’s communism is ingrained at an early age. Individualism is not. Everything is done for the motherland.
I haven’t read anything by Quinn before so I’m thrilled to know she has a few more out there waiting for me. If you get a chance to read a physical copy, it does include some great photos of her. The author's notes are excellent as well as her research to the her previous novel lead to the discovery of Mila. 5⭐️
“It isn’t enough to believe in equality and peace and human rights—one must work at it.”
4 lustrous stars for another gem of a book written by Kate Quinn, Diamond Eye.
The dazzling story of the multi-facted, Mila Pavlichenko, and the life of the girl who became a mother, having been seduced at a very young age, the mother who became the reluctant wife, the wife who became a soldier, and the soldier who became one of WWII’s greatest snipers, and the sniper who became a diplomat to the US.
Kate Quin has done it again and found another unfamiliar female war heroine, and having brilliantly researched her life and memoirs, has delivered another immersive, captivating and eye-opening account of a dark period in our history and the personal anguish felt by so many on both sides.
The Storyline and Memoirs
The plot is simple. The life story of Mila is not.
Mila is seduced by Alexei Pavlichenko, a much older man, and becomes a reluctant wife and mother at the age of 16, only to the separated within a year. As a self-dubbed ‘tomboy’ and an amateur sharpshooter by 13, Mila is already unknowingly preparing for the dangerous life she is to embrace during the war in defence of her country. However, studying to become an historian, Mila answers the call to war from within her native country Ukraine and city of Kiev.
As a talented markswoman, Mila rises in rank within the army as she tallies her death toll to an astounding 309 people. However, frustrated that America has not joined the war, Mila joins a convey of diplomats to the US and famously says in a conference
“Gentlemen," she said, "I am 26 years old and I have killed 309 fascist invaders by now. Don't you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?"
Review and Comments
Described as blunt and unemotional by some and a heroine in the eyes of other, Mila is someone who can divide opinion. I confess to being really torn with Mila, which came as a bit of surprise to me because I love the stories of strong female characters.
On one hand Mila is a successful sniper who courageously returns to the front line despite being injured four times. Her strength, determination and courage has made her a worthy icon in WWII. I was fascinated by this woman. So, for her war effort, I can only but applaud such a triumphant career. Then comes the but, because I struggled to admire the woman who seemed to delight and gloat on amassing 309 bodies, by keeping a tally on her body count, and patting her rife to indicate this is what she believes in (again from her own memoirs)
Most people who fight in wars don’t want to be there, I imagine most would struggle with the idea of killing someone and very few would want to keep a body count. Every country has a right to defend and respond to an attack. However, It is their immoral leaders driven, in many cases, by power, wealth and ambition that has led many countries to war. So, to seemingly enjoy killing (from her memoirs and in her own words) and then gloat and celebrate so many kills just jarred with me. Many innocent people die on both sides, in any war, so I could never see myself gloat in a war under the same circumstances.
Yet you have to feel sympathy because Mila suffers great loss. A life with her son and her husband who dies in her arms at the front. You can feel her anguish when she justifies her actions when saying
“My husband lost his life at Sevastopol before my eyes. He died in my arms. As far as I am concerned, any Hitlerite I see through my telescopic sights is the one who killed him.”
Now back to the book and storytelling which is what I am here to do rather than wrestle with morals over what is justifiable in war.
Kate Quinn is a stunning writer and writes these stories with so much depth and accuracy that they feel authentic, as you can tell because you are so immersed in the story that it is hard to avoid judging the characters and the subject matter. So, for that you have to applaud Kate Quinn, and I am in awe of the bravery shown by Mila, who personally sacrificed so much for freedom.
A very worthy read on many levels, and totally absorbing and to end with two of my favourite quotes:
“Snipers must make themselves calm in order to succeed, and that is why women are good at sharpshooting. Because there is not a woman alive who has not learned how to eat rage in order to appear calm.”
“The little men are still out here taking the bullets while the big men sit safe and dry. That doesn’t change no matter who’s in charge.”
In loving memory of the innocent lives lost in WWII and in the ongoing war waged on Ukraine. My heart goes out to the innocent people on both sides of any conflict.
I don't read WWII historical fiction often, but The Diamond Eye caught my attention, and what a riveting story!
This remarkable woman Lyudmila "Mila" Pavilchenko, aka Lady Death, is a Soviet sniper with 309 confirmed kills. Mila was a teen mom. She attended Kiev University with a dream of becoming a historian in Moscow. She only shoot as a hobby until Germany invaded in 1941 (Battle of Kiev) when she enlisted with some pushback of being a woman. By 1942, there were two thousand female snipers in the Soviet army.
This is a powerful book and is well written about a real female hero who is admirable and brave. Later, Mila traveled to America on a goodwill tour and became friends with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Certain parts are fictionalized but my favorite aspect of the book is on the battlefield. I probably would enjoy it more with less romance.
With the current world affairs and after reading a novel about the Ukrainian famine (1932-33), this was a tough one to read, emotionally.
The Diamond Eye is the fictionalized autobiography of Lyudmila Pavlichenko “Mila”, a Russian sniper during World War II. The novel expertly blends portions of the real-life Mila's actual biography with Quinn's "unofficial" biography. We follow Mila from being a 15-year-old mother, then a history major writing a dissertation, to becoming a trained markswoman, a sniper, and going on a goodwill mission to the United States where she befriends Eleanor Roosevelt. The fictional element of her being targeted by a hitman while in the United States adds intrigue throughout the story.
Kate Quinn is one of my top five favorite authors. I love her writing style and usually rate her books 5-stars. I feel guilty for only giving this one 4-stars. I really enjoyed it but did not love it. Saskia Maarleveld, as always, is an excellent narrator.
It’s no secret- historical fiction is my jam- so I knew I’d be engrossed in this one. 🤓 I really took my time- absorbing each part of her story. Impressive that the author took so much time and truth from Lyudmila (Mila) Pavlichenko’s life and incorporated real people w/ each character. 🤔 The USSR lost so many- but that often gets overlooked in the whole mess that was WWII. I appreciated learning more about it and reading this version of “Lady Death” the famous female sniper. ❤️
Lyudmila Pavlichenko is “The Diamond Eye’, Lady Death, a World War Two Russian army sniper with an alleged 309 kills. Russian propaganda or the truth? Her mission in 1942 in the United States is to be part of the delegation to encourage President Roosevelt to offer aid in its brutal war against Hitler. A marksman watches the proceedings, there is an audacious plot to kill FDR and Mila would be a great patsy. Backtrack five years to Kyiv in the Soviet Union and we get an insight into her life as an angry young mother, with her husband she’s trying desperately to divorce and how she becomes a sniper. “It’s all for you, Slavka“, her beloved son.
First of all, I admit to finding it very hard reading about this initially because of current events but I set this aside as this is Kate Quinn who I really admire. There are some very good insights into a woman living in the Soviet Union where despite the true meaning of the word communism, females still face the same old, same old so kudos to Mila for striking a feminist blow.
There is a huge depth of research which does lead to a lot of information about guns, rifles, war movements, the reality of the eastern front but it is interspersed with a more personal slant especially Mila’s love life with her loves and her losses. The war does come to life in all its rawness and devastating brutality and you see exactly what the Soviet Union is up against.
It’s the part of the story in the United States and her growing bond and formation of an unlikely friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt that I enjoy the most, I’d go so far as to say I love these sections. This is where we get to see Lyudmila‘s real personality, her humour, to understand better the complications in her life, the passion for her country and her bravery. What an admirable woman Eleanor Roosevelt is too.
There are some good twists in this part of the story and some vengeful actions as it builds to an exciting, tense and suspenseful ending with some superb predatory imagery. It’s maybe a bit Hollywood but it’s enjoyable and makes for highly entertaining reading - what more can we ask for!
Overall, it’s undeniably good and very well written but it doesn’t wow me as much as Rose Code . I would like to thank Kate Quinn for bringing a woman I knew nothing about to my attention and it’s well worth reading the authors afterword. I do enjoy how she has cleverly woven fact with fiction.
With thanks to NetGalley and especially to HarperCollins for the much appreciated arc return for an honest review.
The Diamond Eye was an excellent historical fiction story about Mila Pavilchenko, the female Russian sniper who had more than 300 kills in WWII. Mila was a single mom attending college to become a historian when she joined the Russian fight against Hitler’s invasion. When her 300th kill makes the news, Mila, aka Lady Death, is sent to the US for a PR tour, but it seems not everyone is impressed by her sharp shooter skills.
I used to read a lot of historical fiction but have really stepped back from it over the last few years because I felt burnt out, particularly with WWII HF. Not saying these stories aren’t important or are unworthy, I just found them blending together far too much for me to enjoy reading them. I am so glad I came back to the genre with The Diamond Eye though! Based on a true story, this book kept me captivated and I was rooting for Mila the whole time.
This was my first Kate Quinn book and it will not be my last. The audiobook is wonderfully narrated by Saskia Maarleveld — 4.5 stars
“No matter how hard the metal, it yields to human strength. All you have to do is devise the right weapon. I was a weapon”. - Kate Quinn, The Diamond Eye
*Disclaimer: It’s amazing and in many ways unlucky that the timing of this novel, which centers around Ukrainian born Lyudmila Pavlichenko who was a Russian female sniper during WWII, has coincided so closely with the events currently unfolding in Ukraine. I have felt much less compelled to pick this story up and think if I’d read it a year ago my review might be much different. I’m going to try to be completely unbiased and review strictly on the story’s merit.
Quinn is one of my favorite writers and her writing here did not disappoint. While Mila was very well developed, I didn’t feel like the second half of the novel was as strong as the first half. The historical portion was fascinating, but the fictionalized parts felt too contrived. I wish the story had stayed focused on the history rather than veering into the fictionalized parts. The story was interesting enough without this addition. I loved the relationship that developed between Mila & Eleanor Roosevelt, with Eleanor’s ‘notes’ being a really nice touch.
Still recommend. 3.5 stars rounded up.
***ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko is separated from her husband Alexei, she wants a divorce, he's stalling and they have a son Slavka. She lives in Kiev, when the Germans invade in 1941, the woman with an interest in historical events and she will become part of World War Two history.
Mila joins the 25th rifle division, she’s taken a marksmanship course and becomes a sniper. Mila shoots from underground man made nests and hidden in bushes and from the tops of buildings. A comrade made a joke, to be a good sniper, you need a weapon, a knife, two ammunition pouches, patience and a non-reflective flask containing a little vodka. Mila didn’t find killing people easy, she wanted her son to have a future and due to her accuracy she became known as Lady Death. Mila is a strong woman, she’s given birth, been wounded and seen many of her comrade’s die in combat.
Mila’s made over three hundred kills, after being injured at Sevastopol, she’s sent on a tour of America and the Russians desperately want America to form a second front and divide the German forces. At first the Americans didn’t know what to make of Mila in her army uniform and makeup free face and she won them over with her humility. In Washington Mila meets Eleanor Roosevelt, they become friends and Mila's being stalked.
The battle descriptions in the narrative are brutal, you read about the types of weapons used, the injuries they caused and the bolt action rifle Mila preferred as a sniper. Mila was human, she fell in love, had her heart broken, she kept going because she didn’t want the Germans to win and for her son.
I received a copy of The Diamond Eye from NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers Australia in exchange for an honest review. Kate Quinn has done it again, by using known facts and her imagination to create a historical biographical story about one inspirational woman’s fight to staunch the flow of war with her rifle in Russia and then with her voice in America and five stars from me. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/ https://www.facebook.com/KarrenReadsH...
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn. Probably my favorite book of 2022 this far! Tells a side of Russia at the brink of WWII. A bot of romance and sex but just enough to keep you interested not raunchy. Female heroine! She is tough and smart. As she goes through the war with over 300 sniper kills and on into the USA. Read the well written and superbly researched story. Stay to the end to read the author’s notes! 5+ Stars! I am sad it had to end 🌟
The Diamond Eye is well-researched and documented historical fiction. It should help restore a mostly unknown WW2 heroine to her rightful place in history. Most of the characters, the events, battles, friendships, and losses are factual, but the author reveals fictional parts and speculation added to this compelling story.
I had some problems with the book's structure and flow and would have preferred less emphasis on the various types of military weapons and her romantic involvements. I thought the story could have been tighter without losing any focus on her bravery in battle, her skill as a leader and as a sniper, her war wounds, tragic losses, and heroism.
The book reminded me that the state of the world had had significant changes during my lifetime. A lot of blood was tragically shed in Russia during WW2. Death, torture, suffering, hunger, and fear prevailed in a desperate effort to defeat the Nazi invaders. Lyudmila (Mila) Pavilchenko was a 15-year girl living in Kyiv when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. She was pregnant and married at 15 to an arrogant, neglectful physician who showed little interest in his wife or their young son. Mila was devoted to her son, continued her historical research studies, and was completing her graduate dissertation. She worked in a library doing research. One day while enjoying time on the beach in Odesa with friends, news came that German Nazis had invaded the Soviet Union.
Mila had gained some skill in sharpshooting as a hobby, and she joined the Red Guard army. During the war, most women in the military worked in communications or as medical personnel, but in the Soviet Armed forces, some were bomber pilots, tank drivers, and snipers. After joining the army, Mila had extensive training as a sniper and became so skillful that she eventually had her own platoon to train and employ in the fight against the enemy..
Her commanding presence and talents while working with men freed her from much of the harassment that female recruits endured. She built respect and friendships with men under her leadership and managed to carry out some romantic relationships. She had a proven tally of over 300 kills. She suffered some tragic losses and endured some unfortunate retreats from the Nazi advances. Mila was hospitalized with severe war wounds several times but recovered to return to her depleted squadron.
The United States was late in joining the war effort, doing so when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. They concentrated their battles in the Pacific. The Soviet government sent a delegation to plead for help and the opening of a second front to prevent Russia (and the rest of Europe) from falling under the rule of Nazi Germany. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was conflicted because he had enemies in high places who wanted to get rid of him by any means necessary. As part of the delegation to American cities, Mila was frightened of making speeches pleading for aid. She was traumatized by the loss of military friends, her lover's death, and the horrific war scenes she witnessed. She endured a hostile press and public, who could not believe this pretty young woman could not have been an active battle participant and accomplished sniper. She was regarded as a fraudulent tool for Soviet propaganda. She put aside her nervousness when speaking to the crowds. She developed an unlikely, deep and lasting friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt and charmed the President. After the delegation returned to Russia, FDR sent the military to Europe and helped defeat the Nazis. Mila suffered from PTS but married her Siberian sniper partner and her translator. They lived quietly in Moscow, where she completed her dissertation and worked in the library researching history. At the end of the book, there are photos of Mila alone and with other people. Many more photos can be found on the internet.
The epigraph of THE DIAMOND EYE stopped my progress before I even hit the prologue. I was casually familiar with Lyudmila "Mila" Pavlichenko's history as a soldier and sniper but was utterly oblivious to the fact that she was also a single mother, a library researcher, and an envoy to the United States. The revelation took a minute to wrap my head around, but once it settled, I wondered how Kate Quinn would balance all the facets of her subject's life. She's a master of the craft – one I'd follow into the gates of hell were she ever to turn her pen in that direction – but this story was huge, and I couldn't begin to imagine how anyone would beat it into the framework of a historical novel.
The answer? A dual timeline set in both 1942 and 1937. My tastes favored the emotional depth of the latter, but I want to note the former grew on me as the novel progressed. Base knowledge of the players involved diffuses some of the suspense in that storyline, but I was still on the edge of my seat when the tension finally boiled over. I can only assume Quinn knew a creative twist necessary, that she had to offer something more to anyone who raised an eyebrow at the situational drama she'd created, but deliver she did. In truly sparkling fashion.
As a biographical novel, THE DIAMOND EYE naturally favors Mila's military career, but I loved that it never lost track of her humanity. Quinn's deft description of the role Mila played and the equipment she used fascinated me – especially when I took the time to compare her descriptions to the firearms in question – but it was the little nods to Mila's person that captured my imagination. Mila's gentle handling of Marya, her friendship with Vartanov, and her partnership with Kostia. The connection she fostered with Lyonya, her unfiltered maternal love for Slavak, her strained interactions with Alexei, and her dogged determination to submit her dissertation. All of it came together in a distinct and memorable portrait, one that pays fitting homage to a life worthy of recognition beyond the official tally in her service record.
I could go on, could gush my delight at Quinn's interpretation of Eleanor and FDR's marriage, my amusement at her nod to Teddy lost ring, or note the giggle that broke free at the Nina Markova reference she casually slid into the text – but the short of the matter is that THE DIAMOND EYE is worth tracking down. In a market flooded by stories of WWII, Quinn found untapped material and turned it into an impossible-to-put-down page-turner. A novel that chronicles an extraordinary life and speaks to the fortitude required of all who serve on the front lines.
I have read several of Kate Quinn’s novels and was really looking forward to reading her newest one, The Diamond Eye. It had all the elements I have come to expect in a book by Kate Quinn. The Diamond Eye was filled with intrigue, it was fast paced, gripping and quite remarkable. There was a strong female protagonist and I learned so much from reading it. The Diamond Eye was based on the life and experiences of Lyudmila (Mila) Pavlichenko, a talented and determined woman sniper in the Red army during World War II. In all the historical fiction novels I have read over the years, I had not read in such detail about the battles and hardships the Nazis made the Soviets endure. The Soviets were usually mentioned, in the books I had read, in conjunction with the Americans entrance into the war, as they were gaining ground on the Nazis and were coming closer to liberating Europe from the despicable Nazis. It was riveting to read about individual Red soldiers and their fierce determination to keep Hitler and the Nazis out of the Soviet Union at any cost. Kate Quinn accomplished this by exposing and sharing Mila’s unmatched courage, skills, foresight, natural instincts, wisdom and loyalty to her country. Some of the details about the actual battles were gruesome but made me feel like I was in the thick of it as well. The research that went into writing this book was impeccable. It portrayed all the obstacles a female soldier, in a male dominated army, came across and had to endure. The characters in The Diamond Eye were well developed and vivid. I liked some more than others and actually disliked a few, especially Mila’s estranged husband. I listened to the audiobook of The Diamond Eye. It was performed very well by Saska Maarleveld.
Mila Pavichenko was married at fifteen years old to a talented but much older surgeon. Her husband soon grew tired of her. He verbally abused her a belittled her at every opportunity he could. The only good thing that came from this failed marriage was her beautiful son. Mila returned to her parent’s home after her husband left her and her son and lived there with her son. She was trying to obtain a divorce from her husband but he was making this difficult as well. Her husband had walked out on both her and their son. Mila was working on her dissertation for her PhD in history while she worked at the Odessa library. During this time, Mila enrolled in a course for marksmanship instruction and was able to secure a certificate for her undeniable skills as an accomplished marksman and sniper. When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, Mila had to make the most difficult decision of her young life. Should she enlist in the Red army? Could she leave her son with her parents, not be part of his life for an indefinite amount of time, to help protect her country against Hitler and the Nazis? Mila’s initial thoughts were that she had to so that her son would grow up in a safe place free from Hitler. Her first thoughts were not of killing but of protection for her son. After witnessing death, destruction and devastation, Mila became a skilled sniper, she shot to kill first. She became a woman sniper who killed more than 300 Nazis, which included many high ranking SS officers. Mila became known as Lady Death and eventually became a national heroine.
In 1942, Mila was one of several in a Soviet delegation that traveled to the United States with the sole purpose of encouraging President Roosevelt and the United States people to aid her country’s war efforts and try and convince the United States to speed up its decision to enter the war. At that time, the United States and the Soviet Union were allies. The Soviets believed that the United States’ entry would weaken the Nazis by forcing them to fight on two fronts. During Mila’s goodwill tour. as an ambassador to the United States, she and Eleanor Roosevelt, then the First Lady, forged a beautiful friendship. Mila and Eleanor Roosevelt not only became friends but Eleanor became one of Mila’s strongest and loyal allies over the years. During Mila’s tour in the United States, she was confronted with skepticism, rude and unreliable reporters and the threat of another sniper. Someone wanted President Roosevelt dead and they wanted Mila to be charged with the act of assassin. Would Mila be able to discover the plot before it was too late? Would she be able to spare the life of President Roosevelt with her skills and determination?
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn was fascinating and enlightening. I enjoyed the romance and love that Mila was able to experience. Her ability to find love not once but twice made her even more endearing. Its timing for publication could not have been more timely for what the world is witnessing now with the war against the Ukrainian people. I had never heard of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, her bravery, courage and heroism until this book. I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook of The Diamond Eye and eagerly await Kate Quinn’s next book.
No one writes historical fiction like Kate Quinn! This time she brings to life a quiet student, Mila Pavlichenko, as she becomes Lady Death -- a sniper working against the enemy Germans in WWII.
We meet Mila in Kyiv as she cares for her son and works at the library. As war breaks out, she enlists to help defeat the Germans. She tallies over 300 kills officially, who knows how many unofficially? Kate Quinn writes fierce battle scenes that put me right in the action. I grew to really like Mila's sniper partner Kostia and really dislike her husband Alexei.
Then Mila is sent to the US with a delegation to try to sway the Americans into opening up another front to help the Russians. It was fascinating to see FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt in the eyes of the Russians. There's a side plot with a presidential assassination attempt. Mila and Kostia just long to return to the front to fight the war the way they are trained. And Mila misses her son.
An unlikely friendship develops between Eleanor and Mila and it was a great addition to the story. I enjoyed the photos at the end of the book to see if my idea of Mila matched up to how she really looked!
Thank you to my local library for the loan of this one. Can't wait to see who Quinn writes about next.
Out of the five books I have read from this author, unfortunately this is my least favorite. It's not bad by any means, but it just didn't draw me in as much as her other books have. This is based on a true story about a Russian woman, Mila Pavlichenko, who joins the army to be a sniper because she already possessed the needed sharpshooting skills. She is so good at her job that she becomes known as "Lady Death" and is then sent on a diplomatic mission to America to help convince Americans to start a second front against Hitler. That last part, involving her real life meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt kind of bored me to be honest. I think the author knew it too which is why that is the part where she really takes the most fictional liberties to spice things up but I still wasn't particularly drawn in. If you haven't read any books by this author, I wouldn't start here.
Kate Quinn is a kickass writer who immediately makes me care as deeply about the main protagonist as she does. The Diamond Eye is a historical fiction novel based on WWII Soviet sniper, Lyudmila (Mila)Pavlichenko, a woman who the Soviets claimed had more than 300 kills to her name. But during a trip to Washington DC in 1942 to drum up American support, there are those who lurk in the shadows that believe the tale to just be Soviet propaganda. Is Mila a hero or a fraud?
Relying on a variety of non fiction texts and Pavlichenko's own memoir, Quinn creates an edge of your seat novel filled with fascinating characters and intriguing plot turns, including the friendship between Mila and American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
As I stated above, I cared deeply for the bookworm Mila who loves her son and country fiercely. In so many WWII books concerning the people of Allied nations, the female characters are often members of British intelligence or of the Resistance movements across Europe. It was very interesting to have the perspective of a Soviet woman soldier at the front. As a Canadian who went to school in the 90's, my teachers talked little of the Soviet front. Yet, as Quinn points out in her author's note, there are many that state as far as the Allies worked, WWII was won by British intelligence, American steel, and Soviet blood. Of the latter, Quinn writes with such vivid description that at times, I could see in my mind the very scenes being witnessed by Mila. As I learned in the author's note, Mila was in fact, from Ukraine, but always remained proud to state that she was Russian. It was interesting her perception of Soviet versus American society.
There were so many wonderful moments in the novel, some of which, I cannot talk about in my review because well, that would be spoiling it for other readers. I will just say that it was one of my favorite reads of 2022.
Kate Quinn has done it again! This tremendously talented author (one of my favorites) has once again written another engrossing, transportive work of historical fiction with a strong, formidable female protagonist at its center. In a provocative narrative based on the real life story of Lyudmila “Mila” Pavlichenko, a Russian librarian and history student turned deadly sniper, Quinn returns to the WWII time period of her previous novel, except this time, the focus is on the Soviet front and the physical battles fought during the war. Mila’s story is fascinating in its own right, but through her beautifully rendered prose, Quinn truly brings this little-known war heroine to life. I love the way Quinn writes her characters in all her books and this time around was no exception. With the character of Mila, I appreciated how, despite the moniker “Lady Death” and a tally of 309 kills to her name, the focus throughout most of the story wasn’t really on her fame per se, but rather, on her humanity. Mila was formidable, but never hostile, and in the face of everything she had to deal with — taking care of her son as a single mother, pushing back against the bias and prejudices she had to endure on a daily basis in her field of work, fending off those with bad intentions toward her, being tasked with defending her country against foreign advances, etc. — the tremendous strength and fortitude she consistently displayed was nothing short of admirable.
This was a meticulously researched, engaging story that I found difficult to put down. I learned a lot about a segment of WWII history that I was less familiar with, which I appreciated, as I always hope to learn something from my reading experiences. Kate Quinn’s novels have all been 5 star reads for me up to this point and while this one was indeed wonderful, it did fall a tad bit short this time around, mostly because I felt parts of the story leaned a little too much into the technical aspects related to weaponry and battle, which has never been a subject of interest for me. Also, I felt the storyline involving Alexei went on for way too long, and the way he seemed to keep popping up all over the place honestly kind of annoyed me.
One thing I do have to mention — given the context of what is going on in the world currently involving Russia and Ukraine, it was honestly hard to read this book and not feel impacted in some way by the similarities of war. This would be the one caution about reading this book during this time.
That notwithstanding though, The Diamond Eye is a magnificent story that is absolutely well-worth the read. Highly recommended!!
Received ARC from William Morrow and Company via NetGalley.
Kate Quinn has written a fabulous historical fiction novel, The Diamond Eye.
While Quinn was doing research, she discovered the story of Mila Pavlichenko who was a librarian turned sniper with over 300 kills to her credit. 5% of the total military personnel in Russia for WWII were women. Women were primarily in administrative roles but there were women who were skilled marksmen. Quinn's research uncovered that Pavlichenko became great friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, another incredibly strong woman.
This is a terrific book with badass women protagonists who have very strong views about careers, capabilities, love, and war.
Lyudmila “Mila” Pavlichenko, estranged from her husband Alexei, was a history student working as a library researcher while supporting her young son. She decides to enlist in the Red Army when the Germans invade the Soviet Union. Mila demonstrates her advanced shooting skills and quickly establishes herself as a highly effective sniper. As Mila’s kills escalate, she is nicknamed “Lady Death.” The story alternates between 1941, as Mila and her comrades face danger and death on the battlefields and 1942, when Mila and a Soviet delegation is sent to Washington D.C. to gain military support from President Roosevelt and to generate goodwill with the American people. Mila develops a friendship with First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. During this U.S. visit, another sniper is lurking in the background and the target is FDR. This is a story of a talented, smart and courageous woman which is even more interesting knowing that Mila is a true-to-life historical figure.
Kate Quinn has done a fine job in this fictionalization of the real-life Paylichenko. The Diamond Eye details the challenges of being a woman in combat and the on-going dangers she faced. I enjoyed the way Mila managed her relationships with her fellow soldiers and the men who loved her. Since I knew absolutely nothing about Mila before reading this book, I’m glad I didn’t do my normal Googling for more information while reading, as it might have provided some spoilers. But make sure to read the Author’s Note at the end.
I loved learning all about Mila, the Russian sniper that single-handedly eliminated at least 300 Nazis during World War II. While this is Historical Fiction, it hits harder on the history. Mila really needs no embellishment. Not only is it awesome to learn about how she handled herself during combat, but when she is sent to the U.S. on a goodwill tour and befriends First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, we get to see her be calmly and almost sweetly fierce.
I mentioned last year that I wanted to take a break from WWII books but nonetheless, I chose to read this book because of its interesting story. It's based on the true story of a renowned Ukrainian sniper during the war. I haven't heard of Mila Pavlichenko before this book and it's always interesting to see historic figures brought to life in fiction. So it was a real plus for Quinn in this book, that and her strong writing style.
Other than that, however, I must admit that I couldn't connect with the characters and sometimes even if my mind wandered while listening to the audio, I wouldn't feel lost at all (nor care honestly). So the idea was really nice and the story is good for what it is not in its details, was it connecting to the characters or a gripping plot.
The audiobook's narration was excellent. If you're considering reading this book in this format, you wouldn't go wrong by choosing to listen to the audio!
I don't have much to say about the book other than the points I mentioned before. I'm glad I now know her story for sure. I just hope Quinn decides to write outside of WWII because she has a big potential and I would like to read her books if set during a different time period. I truly like how she chooses a heroine figure from the war and brings her to fiction work but I've read enough books set during that time and would prefer to explore different historical events.
A sparkling gem of a story about a fabulous and fascinating woman. Mila Pavlichenko’s journey from history student and mother to sniper and national hero is beautifully rendered by Kate Quinn in this utterly absorbing novel.
I am such a fan of Kate Quinn and yet this is the first book I review here (more reviews of her other books will follow). Oddly enough, this is the first of her books I have been following from start to finish and couldn’t wait to read. So much so, that I bought the book on launch day. Then counted the days until the book was delivered to Bulgaria. That was a story I was not inclined to wait forever to be translated and printed (I just collect the Bulgarian editions of Kate’s books). I wanted it right now.
The reason behind that – I was thrilled to see how Kate interpreted the story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko. I have read the official memoir of the lady and I already knew what was to be expected and my hands were itching to read what Kate had made of the story. So much so, that this book kept me until 3 a.m. a few times because you cannot simply read ‘just a chapter’ of it. It wouldn’t leave you and the story just plunges you in war-torn Ukrainian USSR. You just see and feel what the character does and love and hate and cry with her. You cheer for her and hate her enemies. And that is said by a person who has read the original memoir and knows most of things in the book are supposed to be. Yet, the book kept me on edge, entertained and crying for the ones Mila loses in the story and in real life.
There is still something new to discover, a new angle of the story. The real Lyudmila is cold, distant and factual most of the time, her memoir zigzagging between the real horror story and tragedy she lived through, the dark humour of frontline life and the sweeping Soviet propaganda on almost every page (yep, I am not making this up, propaganda is almost everywhere, but the memoir is surprisingly readable and not at all boring).
Lyudmila in Kate’s book is much more than the distinguished woman from the momoir. She loves, hates and has almost all vice and virtue a woman of 24 could have at the time (and even some surprisingly modern, but absolutely believable ones, if you know the real historical figure). She has some very clear motives for joining the war (which I love, as the memoir is vague on that) and some even clearer opinions on how the war went. I absolutely love how Kate filled in the gaps in the timeline and the facts that were missing in the memoir. If you read the memoir, you are left with bitterness as you see a woman who has been put behind the desk as a trainer with body and mind wrecked by the war and whose heart is empty cold as the tundra. She had served her country and sacrificed her life for it.
Not in ‘The Diamond Eye’! I love the ending, it was a surprise, it gives resolution and peace to a soul that had very much earned it. I really hope that real-life Lyudmila got this kind of an ending – a peaceful happy life with her loved ones (and I know, I am spoiling the ending for you BUT I’m not gonna tell you how she gets to that point, read the book!).
I keep comparing the book to the memoir, but I couldn’t help it, as I see two Lyudmila’s. The one in the memoir is a cut-out from a propaganda poster, the text heavily edited to suit its purpose. Trust me, anyone who has lived in a totalitarian state can tell this – I may not have seen those times in Bulgaria, but can spot a text that went through a thousand cuts for the sake of the Motherland. Where the cuts have missed, you could see the real Lyudmila smiling from across the decades and this is the image you will see in ‘The Diamond Eye’. Not a blind idealist, but a mother hell-bent on defending her son, sense of justice and land.
Speaking of the facts, the fiction is way less than you think – trust me, I still remember the memoir I read back in 2019 – so most of the things you would find in the book are hard truth, told to us by Lyudmila herself. Where there IS fiction, it is so logical to be there and fits the story so well, that you can’t help but wonder ‘what if this was also true and the propaganda machine simply had cut it out from the original tale’.
This book is one of those you want to start reading all over again once you turn the last page. It just such an immersing read, so well-written (and I am saying that as a non-native speaker to English who stumbles on odd military terms here and there) that you just forget it’s just a book and you feel part of the action. You are there in the sniper’s nest or at the press conference, you see the world through the eyes of the characters and… OK, I could keep on like that, but I will spoil the whole book for you, so my advice here is to simply go and read it.
As much as it pains me to do it, I’ve added this to my DNF list. I LOVE Kate Quinn’s books but this was just not my thing. Most of the characters were unlikeable, including Mila, the main character. Moreover, I hated the way this story was being told. I usually don’t have a problem with dual timelines or first person but this was just so choppy. I hated Eleanor Roosevelt’s entries, I hated the way the narrator would suddenly start speaking to the reader mid-chapter, ugh, it just did not work for me. That being said I can’t wait to read Kate Quinn’s next book!