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10 March 2015

Belinda Alexandra: Sapphire Skies

An absorbing Russian saga
This was a surprisingly good book about the life story of an ace female Russian fighter pilot in WWII. It is essentially a love story set around times of betrayal, violence and horror.

Natalya Azarova grew up living a privileged life in Stalin's pre-war Russia and despite family tragedies became one of Russia's top fighter pilots who was feared by many German pilots. Her plane was shot down and her reputation destroyed by rumours that she was a German spy. In 2000 the remains of her plane and a sapphire brooch (a present from Stalin) were found buried deep in a forest - but there was no sign of the body. Valentin Orlov, now in his 80's, who was her Squadron Leader and lover, has been hunting for her for many years.

In 2000 Lily Nickam, daughter of a Russian refugee to Australia, is working in Moscow and meets a derelict old woman who pleads with her to take her dog. There follows a touching tale of a relationship between the two women from different generations.

Belinda Alexandra has written well researched historical drama with an extremely complex, sometimes over complex, plot that fairly seamlessly spans modern day Russia and Stalin's Russia covering the horrors of Stalin's purges, the Russian front, Auschwitz and Siberian labour camps. Sometimes it is challenging but there is always a thread of humanity amidst the horrors.

This is the kind of historical drama fiction that lets you learn something about the past while enjoying an interesting and absorbing story. Well recommended.

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