Sapphire Skies by Belinda Alexandra
I picked up this book because I misremembered one of the challenges for the 2015 Readers Challenge. I thought I had to read a book with a precious stone in the title; it should have been a book with a chemical element in the title. You can see my mistake! So while this isn’t a style/genre of book I would ordinarily read, I was determined to meet the criterial of the readers challenge and I was pleasantly surprised. It also has a great cover and you will know from some of my previous posts that I do judge a book by the cover. Yes, I know, I could have reviewed this book under that category, but that wasn’t the reason I picked it up in the first place!
Sapphire Skies is a story about Natalya Azarova, an ace pilot in Stalinist Russia whose plane was shot down by the Germans during World War 2 and who vanished without a trace. The aftermath of Natalya’s crash is clouded by the suspicion that she may have been a traitor who defected to the Germans. When the wreckage of a plane is discovered in 2000 by Natalya’s lover and fellow pilot Valentin Orlov – who has been desperately searching for her since she vanished – a variety of people are drawn together to share their perspectives and to piece together the story of what happened to this controversial national heroine. One of those touched by Natalya’s story is Lily, an Australian visitor in Moscow who is struggling to put her own life back together after a personal tragedy.
Alexandra cleverly takes the reader back into the past, right into the dark heart of Stalin’s Russia of the 30’s and 40’s where it seems that the authorities could and did take away people on any pretext to be shot or sent to a work camp. Parts of the book are harrowing and then it seamlessly moves to be sweet and charming. Alexander has delivered a well written historical novel that gave me some insight into Russian history.