BOOK REVIEW: ‘Diamond Eye’ by Kate Quinn

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Kate Quinn has done it again! After authoring numerous gripping novels about women in World War II, she does not disappoint with “Diamond Eye.” It is based on the true story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a sniper for the Russian Army during the German invasion. There were 2,000 female snipers in the Russian Army, but only 500 survived. Lyudmila “Mila” Pavlichenko is the most famous and notable of the snipers.

Lyudmila Belova was 15 when she was seduced by surgeon Alexei Pavlichenko. She became pregnant and her father forced Alexei to marry her. Alexei was a terrible husband and an absent father. Soon Mila moved back home so she could continue her studies at the university. Their son wanted to learn to shoot, so Mila made time to study shooting and became a marksman. As it turns out, she was very good.

When Germany invaded Russia, Mila dropped out of school and volunteered in the Russian Army. She was encouraged to be a nurse, but she insisted she could be a sniper. She proved herself by shooting two Romanian officers, and later had 309 documented kills.

In 1942, while recuperating from yet another wound (she was wounded four times), she was chosen to join a delegation of Russians who went to the United States to persuade Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Americans to join the war in Europe. While at the White House, Mila was angered by the frivolous questions from the press. She was asked what shade lipstick she wore and the color and fabric of her underwear. She wanted the United States to understand she was a real soldier fighting in a real war. While Mila was at the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt was impressed with Mila and took her under her wing and helped her navigate the press to get her message to the United States.

Reading about her experiences on the battlefield were captivating. She spent hours setting up her sniper’s nest. She and her partner would spend hours in one position so the German snipers would not see them. 

The book alternates between Mila’s wartime experiences and her experiences will on the goodwill tour in the United States. Despite the differences in their age and culture,  Mila and Mrs. Roosevelt developed a friendship that continued for many years after the war. Mrs. Roosevelt even visited Mila in Russia.

The author based most of the novel on Lyudmila Pavlichenko’s  memoir. While mostly factual, there are some fictional elements in the book. I had grown weary of reading World War II novels, but this story is captivating and I could not put it down.

Kate Quinn has written four historical fiction novels about women in World War II. I have read three of them and I plan to read the fourth. Her novels are “The Alice Network,” “The Huntress,” “The Rose Code” and “Diamond Eye.” She is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. All of her books have been translated into multiple languages.

Cathy Lay Mayor grew up in Cullman and graduated from Cullman High School in 1976. She says when she writes book reviews, she tries to remember what Mrs. Gilbert taught her in 11th-grade English. She lived in Dothan for more than 30 years and is married with three adult children and six grandchildren. She retired to Panama City, but still calls Alabama home.