Today’s Sunday Book Review is for Marina Osipova’s short put powerful novella – Order Number 227 – From Stalin with Love. Don’t be fooled by the subtitle, this is no satire…….As many of you know, one of my favorite genres to read is historical fiction, as I’ve always been fascinated at history. Marina has become one of my favorite historical fiction authors to read, because she knows how to bring out the humanity in characters despite some of the ugliness her characters live in. I find her stories unputdownable.
About the Author
Marina Osipova was born in East Germany into a military family and grew up in Russia where she graduated from the Moscow State Institute of History and Archives. She also has a diploma as a German language translator from the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Languages. In Russia, she worked first in a scientific-technical institute as a translator then in a Government Ministry in the office of international relations, later for some Austrian firms. For seventeen years, she lived in the United States where she worked in a law firm. Eventually, she found her home in Austria. She is an award-winning author and a member of the Historical Novel Society.
From the Author
“It is necessary to defend each position, each meter of our territory, up to the last drop of blood, to cling for each plot of Soviet land and to defend it as long as possible.” – from Order No. 227.
Based on the actual events on the Eastern Front of World War II, this short story is a rare account of a Soviet penal company, told from a perspective of a real person, the military prosecutor, Jakov Antonovich Krivenkov, and a fictional character, an ordinary Russian woman, Matryona, both caught in the horror of an impossible situation.
427,910 Soviet men shed their blood in defending their motherland in penal military units. They were to stop the enemy regardless of cost. Eighty percent of them did not survive. This is the story of thirteen of them.
My 5 Star Review:
Short and powerfully, Osipova once again takes us into a story of war – 1942 Soviet Union fighting the Germans. The story is initially told through Jakov Antonovich as he led one of the penal batallions to ready them for war. The penal soldiers were men who had committed lesser crimes in their country and doing jailtime, recruited to war – some had never even held a gun. The story moves through what the men endured awaiting their time to be called to the front, their training, and their built up loyalty for the man Jakov who trained and nurtured their humanity, and what came of these men as they were eventually sent off to the front.
Although the story is historical fiction. Jakov was not a fictional character, blended well into the story he told of those who worked under him. Later in the story we meet a woman, a rare human who chose to stay behind in her hut and do what she had to do to survive, despite everyone else in her village who had aleady fleed – feeding and nursing soldiers who banged on her door – whether Germans or Russians, her compassion was big enough for all. Later in the end we find how the two stories of the soldiers and the woman would meld. A good reminder in our current world of what war does to man and a woman, and how despite the evil and despair, how humanity can still exist all in the name of fighting for one’s country. #Recommended.