Genre: Historical, Romance, War
Despite Stalin’s assurances to hold the Ukrainian capital at all costs, Hitler has ordered his troops into the Ukraine and for the Russians and Ukrainians living there, it heralds a terrible time of fear, hunger and peril.
All too soon, the danger of living under Nazi occupation impacts on the lives of the ordinary citizens.
The eldest Smirnov son, Stanislav, sets off to fight for the Red Army at the front.
On the brink of marriage to her fiancé Alexei, Lisa’s happiness quickly turns to despair.
Her older sister Natasha watches as their frail grandmother stands up to a Nazi and pays a hard price. But who is the mysterious soldier who steps in to rescue Natasha?
As the harsh winter of 1941 draws in, the Smirnov family watch Jewish friends dragged from their homes, never to return.
The family are further torn by war when Natasha’s father is taken away.
Distraught Natasha turns to Mark, a Hungarian who she grows quickly fond of.
The consequences of their relationship could be dire for both Natasha and Mark if they are discovered, and their future looks fragile.
Two years pass and the noise of Red Army planes is heard once again over Kiev, prompting new hope to rise up among the citizens of the city.
The Nazis look set to move out, but will the Smirnovs’ loved ones ever return to Kiev?
Natasha waits and hopes for better times to return, not knowing whether she will ever see the people she cares for again. Savaged Lands is a novel of love and loss, which chronicles the lives of ordinary citizens of Kiev during this dark and desperate period of their history in World War 2. Its descriptions and characters portray the horrors, and ultimately the hopes, of family members looking to survive oppression and starvation.
Savaged Lands is a novel of love and loss, which chronicles the lives of ordinary citizens of Kiev during this dark and desperate period of their history in World War 2. Its descriptions and characters portray the horrors, and ultimately the hopes, of family members looking to survive oppression and starvation.
Whilst moving and chilling in parts, it ultimately bears testimony to the strength of the people of Kiev, and to their faith that life and love could still prevail against all the odds.
Savaged Lands contains a lot of different elements. There’s budding romance, wartime fear, and characters who long to simply return to peaceful times and their homes. Throughout all this is a clear overview of what war does to people’s lives. Not the detached sort of war seen on a television screen video game, but the kind that tears at every aspect of a community. In demonstrating a real war’s travesty, ‘Savaged Lands’ is right on the mark.
It’s the events happening—not the characters—that drew me. To be very clear; this story is not happy-go-lucky or slice of life. Readers shouldn’t touch it if they don’t like feeling ‘things’. Imagine Schindler’s List—but with a different scope and region.
For those unfamiliar with the movie—we have a city occupied by the invading Nazi army. We have citizens from all regions represented as they deal with a controlling government doctrine, racial oppression and outright mass murder, extortion, conscription and so on. It’s a heavy air where inhumane atrocities happen one after the other. Through it all, we’re following a girl of nineteen as she tries to cope with constant change.
I’ll quote one line from around twenty-five percent that made me try to hold back tears since I’m a big softy and this was blipping heart-rending.
Nikita buried his head in his hands and sobbed. Mother whispered to Natasha, ‘The things he told me on the way here… He felt his Papa shudder for the last time when the bullets hit him. He heard his last breath.’
That being said, I had a few minor quibbles. Scenes and conversations can flow quickly if you’re not carefully reading word for word. The tone is set with a few well-phrased details but they were rapid and didn’t give me time to absorb the severity at times—it got lost in the almost ‘normal’ conversation. Finally, there were many places where I paused and detached myself from the novel to try and figure out ‘why’ the invading army did what it did.
Many out there may wonder if this tale has any sort of bright spot. In short—yes. There were a lot of small wonders throughout the story. I enjoyed the budding romance aspect, how they snuck around, and the occasional levity. The family interaction was comforting as they struggled to stay together. The third person made the tragedy observable just far enough away to survive. In the end, everything ends on a positive note.
For the genre, story tone and affecting me enough to sit down and hang my head as the events made me sad; Savaged Lands get a solid four star leaning toward a five. These types of stories are something I believe everyone should read once in a while—if only to remind ourselves of war’s cost.