Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book 16 - The Sniper by James Riordan - Stalingrad, USSR

The snipers of Stalingrad were legends in their time. During the German assault on this city the snipers were tasked with the most difficult tasks. Capturing or killing enemy officers was their number one priority. They were known as the bravest of the brave. 

This book follows the lives of a group of young people who were in school one week and plunged into battle the next. The main character is Tania. As oneof the older students she is forced into the anti-aircraft gunners and her first experience of combat is the four days and nights of shooting down German bombers over her city. She returns home exhausted to find her house empty and signs that her family has fled the city. Determined to help her country as a nurse Tania sets off to find the place where she can volunteer. Instead she is sent off on a dangerous mission to deliver a message to her father's commanding officer. Her success in completing this task brings her to the attention of the recruiter for the sniper team and suddenly she finds herself in training along with other young men and women. 

I liked the way James Riordan shows us Tania's transition from an innocent, naive, school girl to a battle hardened sniper. She makes some serious mistakes and Riordan in no way sugar coats the consequences of sending inexperienced young people into the war zone.

 This story is based on actual events. James Riordan has visited Stalingrad many times, having studies Russian in Birmingham and Moscow. In 2006 he actually met Tania Chernova, known as the sniper of Stalingrad. Tania was awarded the Red Star for bravery due to her courage as a sniper during the seige. Riordan based his character of Tania on her life. 

Read some of the book here on Google Books