For my birthday in 2013 my husband sent me to YALL Fest in Charleston with a bunch of money to buy books. And boy did I buy books! The only problem is that I bought so many books it has taken forever to get to them all, which is why I just recently read The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford!
Laura Reid goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad as Cold War paranoia is peaking in 1982. She meets a young Russian artist named Alexei and soon, with Alexei as her guide, Laura immerses herself in the real Russia–a crazy world of wild parties, black-market books and music, and smuggled letters to dissidents. She must keep the relationship secret; associating with Americans is dangerous for Alexei, and if caught, Laura could be sent home and Alexei put under surveillance or worse. At the same time, she’s been warned that Soviets often latch onto Americans in hopes of marrying them and thus escaping to the United States. But she knows Alexei loves her. Right?
As June approaches–when Laura must return to the United States–Alexei asks Laura to marry him. She’s only nineteen and doesn’t think she’s ready to settle down. But what if Alexei is the love of her life? How can she leave him behind? If she has a chance to change his life, to rescue him from misery, shouldn’t she take it?
Okay, so I apparently did not read the summary of this one at all before buying it! A few pages into reading The Boy on the Bridge, I posted about it on Instagram and a friend asked me what it was about. My response was “I’m only 5 pages in but it takes place in Cold War era Soviet Union. I think there will be spies!” This is hilarious to me now that I’ve read it. There are no spies! I just assumed that there would be since it was set during the Cold War. haha OOPS!!
All, that to say this book was not what I expected, but that doesn’t mean it was bad! This book is historical fiction, but it’s too contemporary to be my usual type of historical fiction. I honestly didn’t know a single thing about what life was like in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but Standiford’s writing drew me in so quickly and it was really eye-opening to learn more about the time period. I had no idea that average Soviet citizens were under strict food rationing while any visiting foreigners shopped at stores that sold the best of the best. Laura’s experience with her friend Alexei allows the reader to discover this divide in lifestyle alongside the Laura
Although, this is historical fiction, it is also a romance through and through! The way Laura meets Alexei is the perfect meet-cute when he saves her from being taken advantage of by a gypsy woman on a bridge. They quickly become language conversation partners before they blossom into full on romance and the best thing about this romance is that it is realistic. Standiford succeeds at making the reader feel the obsessiveness and all consuming nature that often characterizes first love.
In the end, The Boy on the Bridge was not what I originally expected, but I enjoyed it anyway! Romance lovers high school age and older will most likely enjoy this book the most so if that’s you go ahead and get your hands on this one!