Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is an unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history’s deadliest female sniper.
In 1937 in the snowbound city of Kiev (now known as Kyiv), wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son—but Hitler’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper—a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her three hundredth kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour.
Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC—until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life.
Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever.
I finally did it! I finished The Diamond Eye after starting it 3 months ago. I have read several of Kate Quinn’s books and absolutely loved her last book, The Rose Code. I was super excited to read The Diamond Eye, but it did not quite live up to my expectations.
The Diamond Eye is a fictionalized biography of Lyudmila (Mila) Pavlichenko, a Ukrainian sniper during World War II known as “Lady Death” or “Lady Midnight”. Kate Quinn, as she does in so many of her novels, used portions of the Mila’s autobiography that is filled with Russian propaganda to create a detailed, fictional account. The book follows Mila’s life from motherhood and marriage at fifteen to graduate school to being a deadly sniper to a goodwill mission to the United States where she befriends Eleanor Roosevelt.
As in her other books, Kate Quinn’s writing is immersive and includes just the right amount of description. I enjoyed the writing and found it easy to become lost in. Quinn does an excellent job developing characters. There were so many likeable characters I was able to root for, plus some to root against.
The Diamond Eye includes a little of something for everyone – romance, history, mystery, and action. Where the book fell short was the plot and pacing. I was sucked into the book rather quickly, which is always a plus. I loved learning about Mila’s life at that time and her struggles. However, once she is sent to the battlefield, my attention waned.
The middle of The Diamond Eye really dragged. Kate Quinn tried to include a lot of Mila’s actual experiences on the battlefield. But reading about the monotony of war and battles did not inspire me to pick the book back up. The middle of the book does include a romance subplot that was a refreshing change of pace. Eventually, Mila leaves the frontline, and the plot once again moves quickly in an interesting direction. There is a final twist that was unexpected and delightful.
While The Diamond Eye is WWII historical fiction, it approached the war from a Russian perspective, which is different than other books I have read. Also the fact that the main character was a sniper and did not play the typical role of females in WWII made for a differing perspective. Although most avid historical fiction readers would tell you that we are pretty tired of WWII books, The Diamond Eye really did not feel played out.
I loved that Quinn tied in some discussions between Mila and Eleanor Roosevelt – like the treatment of women in the Red Army versus the treatment of women in the U.S. at the time. Mila’s perspective while she traveled the U.S. and befriended Eleanor was definitely a highlight of the book.
Overall, I enjoyed The Diamond Eye but found that the uneven pace required some patience on my part. I would recommend it, even to those who are over WWII historical fiction.
The Diamond Eye
March 29, 2022