Good Reading : December / January 2007
8 goodreading ı DECEMBER 2006/JANUARY 2007 In 1973 ten-year-old Paullina Simons and her family emigrated from the USSR to the USA, and it was in this life-changing move that the seeds were sewn for the bestselling ‘Bronze Horseman’ trilogy. Fans of these books have been living and breathing the story of Tatiana and Alexander for the last five years. The Summer Garden is the third and final book; it will be released in paperback this month and Simons’s inter net fan sites and chat rooms are all abuzz as it reunites Tatiana and Alexander in America after the conclusion of World War II. However, Alexander, a Red Army officer, and Tatiana, a Russian, have to deal with the implications of the Cold War and the possibility of their pasts coming back to haunt them. With sales of over 100 000 copies in Australia and New Zealand to date there is no question that fans here are extremely dedicated. For some, including Simons herself, it has been hard to move on. She is unapologetic about her inability to leave her beloved characters behind. For the past year she has been working on a cookbook that is filled with Tatiana’s recipes from Russia and America. The recipes are combined with anecdotes about her characters, so in May 2007 the story will continue. There is also a screenplay in the works for The Bronze Horseman, the first book in the trilogy, and fans are hotly debating how this should and shouldn’t be played out. Clearly, Simons is committed to her work and fans but moving on from the trilogy will ultimately mean that another connection with her Russian heritage will be severed. ‘The whole tragedy of the first book, The Bronze Horseman, is all because of my Russian heritage – the things I left behind – and of the failure of Russia in the 20th century to provide for its people. The way it treated them is part of my mental anguish when I think about Russia. It was never going to be a happy story but it ended with hope,’ Simons tells me over the phone from her home in America. The hope referred to was in fact a hope that Simons and her family held when they embarked on their move to America. It is the same hope that Tatiana and Alexander have when they escape to America: for a fresh start with new oppor- tunities. In 1998 Simons and her father went back to Russia for six days. It was their first trip back in 25 years and she hasn’t been back since. Her emotional response to the trip first led to a non-fiction account of the journey that remains unpublished and which was the inspiration for The Bronze Horseman. ‘It [the trip] was very difficult because it was so personal,’ Simons says. ‘It wasn’t me seeing something that I am not per- sonally involved with, I thought this was going to be my life so when I went back I thought I could be living just like this … What I saw was incredibly upsetting … I couldn’t figure out what it was that made me so lucky and them perhaps less fortunate. On many levels it was a very difficult trip.’ So it is easy to see that all the elements for a great Russian novel were there, but the big difference in Simons’s life was the happy ending. However, the transition to a new life in America was not a smooth one to start with as Simons experienced prejudice in a society still caught up in the Cold War. ‘My experience was me coming to America and having to back from the USSR Russian-born writer PAULLINA SIMONS has lived in the USA since she was ten, but her birth country inspired her ‘Bronze Horseman’ trilogy, which concludes this month with the publication of The Summer Garden. MELISSA WILSON talked to her recently about her books and her life.