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Riordan, James: The Sniper.

RIORDAN, James The Sniper Frances Lincoln, 2008 229pp $16.95 pbk ISBN 9781845078850 SCIS 1393288

Here is a fast-paced, cannot-put-down read. But it is far more than that. It is a harrowing, gut-wrenching chronicle set in the 1943 period of the Battle of Stalingrad when the German forces were attempting to implement Hitler's plan to capture that strategic port on the Volga. This little-known account is based on the true story of a sixteen year old Russian, Tania Chernova, here named Tania Belova. A note tells us that 'All the characters are based on real people.' That adds to the poignancy of a superbly related and almost breathless account that tells how the protagonist is plucked from school to become, after a crash course, a gunner.

Tania is soon on a dangerous mission as a military runner and is later chosen to be trained as a sniper. The bulk of her story is taken up with that mission and moves with the rapidity of machine gun fire from one dangerous, horrific and personally confronting episode to the next. Warfare has rarely been recorded with more nervous and emotional intensity. Along with all the horror it traces the hardening of Tania's attitude toward the enemy. She learns to hate but, paradoxically, is not stripped of compassion. At one point she finds herself on board a prison ship under fire from above and ahead, 'braving the icy crossing to give a lifeline to the Stalingrad defenders ... Here she was, sixteen years old, responsible for the fate of two hundred Germans.' Little wonder that the real-life Tania was awarded the Red Star for bravery -just one of a cast of characters deserving of an honoured place in history and in fiction. MS
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Author:Saxby, Maurice
Publication:Reading Time
Article Type:Book review
Date:May 1, 2009
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