Monday, September 24, 2012

Russia's Most Famous Woman Soldier who later becomes an American Spy


A Book Review: The Beautiful Assassin by Michael White 

For the Soviets, Tat’yana is a symbol of a near perfect dream that they want to lure the Americans with – a stunning woman solider who fought and killed over 300 German soliders in the most difficult and terrifying conditions.

Russia’s Clandestine Plans to Spy on the White House
The Russian political hawks see her as an instrument to be used to lure the Americans to join the war against Hitler. That Tat’yana craves for no such fame or name other than to continue fighting as a solider for her country is of no consequence to the Soviets. They present her as their cultural ambassador to Eleanor Roosevelt but in reality they attempt to use her as their spy to findout everything about President Roosevelt’s future plans. Thrust into a political battlefield where the enemies play hidden games and make dangerous moves, Tat’yana is cornered by all sides, torn by her friendship and respect for Eleanor and the desire to serve and be true to her country – the Soviet Union.

Russia’s most famous woman soldier forced to dress up like a Doll to woo the Americans

From start to finish, the book is gripping because it has a fantastic protagonist, namely Tat’yana. You can feel her pain as your own. A woman solider has to live and take decisions in a doubly careful manner but few understand the compulsions she lives with, particularly the Americans who see her as a kind of cultural entertainment.

For instance, Tat’yana is appalled when she is advised dress up, expose her body and told to pretend that she is unmarried when meeting the American Press. She says, “ I am a soldier. Why do I need to dress up or pretend to be single?” The Russians tell her that the American Press need to feel she has a sexy element to her personality. She is told to wear perfume because the Americans cannot stand body odor. She learns how different the Americans are when it comes to judging people by their appeariances. If she didn’t dress up the way they expected her to, they would not write about her. American socialites ask her questions like "What did you do when you had your 'womanly time' on the battlefield?" and Tat’yana is struck by the frivolous nature of an American woman's mind during a time of war. 

The dilemma Tat’yana faces is one that most women in any profession are likely to face – why should dressing up to impress a target audience matter when you are damn good at what you do?

Life in Russia during Stalin’s rule
What interested me most was Tat’yana’s recollections of the past that take us through life in Russia at a time when Stalin’s rule was supreme. It is clear from her version that the Russians themselves despised what Stalin had reduced their motherland to.

Interesting conversations like these take us back to that period in Russia when Stalin’s law was supreme.

“I could recall at night, my parents sitting at the kitchen table, bickering about the government. My mother calling Stalin that ublyudok – mongrel dog – though she would always, as did most citizens even in the privacy of their homes, instinctively lower her voice when saying something the least critical about the government…”

Russian Spy in the White House: Torn between loyalties 
Destiny and political conspiracy catapult Tat’yana to meet Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the US President Roosevelt. The two women become friends instantly though Tatyana has been sent by the Russians to spy on everything that is happening within the White House. Torn between the loyalty she feels towards her motherland and the trust shown towards her by the First Lady, we can see Tatyana questioning her motives for following secretive directions that seem to have nothing to do with the welfare of the Russians.

And out of the blue, just like that, Tat’yana disappears while in the US. The Russians are livid and label their most respected woman solider as a traitor. The truth is never known. What happened to her? Why did she disappear? Did the Americans kill her on finding out that she was a Russian spy? Did she make a tough choice between being a good, loyal solider or a good, trust worthy friend?

The other characters in the book are not as interesting as she is except for the First Lady of the US who definitely makes a mark and intrigues our interest with her freedom and an instinctive sense of what is right and wrong. But I was not pleased with the way it ended – without fizz. 

It left one feeling as though at the end of a fantastically presented six course dish, there was simply no effort to whip up and serve a delectable dessert. The way this novel ended was with a bland bump and that should have been avoided because throughout the story, the plot and the pace had been gripping.

2 comments:

Shilpa Garg said...

Sounds interesting and seems somewhat familiar to the Angelina Jolie's movie SALT.
Have bookmarked this for future reading! :)

Oldfox004 said...

yeah! I too recalled SALT!!
yeah...i was eagerly reading till the end of ur post only to be left with no dessert:(
but i'll surely read this if i get a chance...Thanks for sharing this!

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