I always enjoy historical fiction when it includes details of a real person’s experience. Kate Quinn’s upcoming novel, The Diamond Eye,* delves into the incredible true life of Mila Pavlichenko, a librarian who became a Russian army sniper fighting the Nazis during WWII.
This gripping book explores historical events that include descriptions of Mila fighting for the Russian army in key battles and becoming a Goodwill Ambassador to the United States. During her tour of the US she meets Eleanor Roosevelt with whom she begins a long friendship. Quinn invents the storyline of a menacing assassin looking for a way to murder FDR and have Mila take the blame. The book switches among Mila’s experiences as a sniper, her marriage as a young mother, and her studies as a PhD student in History.
Mila, known as “Lady Death” for her record of killing over 300 Nazis during the war, leaves the battlefields of the Eastern front for a goodwill tour in America. Quinn does meticulous research and the characters come to life on the page.
“’What do you believe in, Mila?’
I thought about that, feeling the burn of rough liquor in my throat. ‘Knowledge, to light the path for humankind,’ I said at last. ‘And this . . .’—patting my rifle—’to protect humankind when we lose that path.’
‘You lead us down the path,’ Kostia said, ‘I’ll have your back.’”
In the US, Mila attempts to convince FDR, Eleanor, and the American people to support Russia in fighting the Nazis. Meanwhile, the assassin is tracking Mila, and she must use her instincts to save herself and the President. I enjoyed the war storyline for Quinn’s detailed descriptions of a female soldier fighting in a male-dominated war. Quinn has the ability to transport us into historical accounts with deft talent.
*The Diamond Eye will be published on March 29, 2022, by William Morrow.