Book Review: The Diamond Eye

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

As an historian who is constantly disappointed at the neglect of women’s stories in traditional historical narratives, I was drawn to this historical fiction novel as it tells the story of a key figure in WWII who I had never even heard of before picking up this book. Mila was a sniper in the Russian army with no less than 300 kills to her credit but history had forgotten her story.

Kate Quinn tells the story of Mila, a young mother who learns to shoot so she can teach her son after his father decides that marriage and family are not what he wants and leaves his family. Mila is determined to be both mother and father to her son so she learns sharp-shooting but this skill leads her down a very different path when the Nazi’s invade Ukraine and Russia. 

Mila joins the army and with skill and determination, works her way through the ranks to become the commander of a small group of snipers. As one of only a few women in the army she has to confront the unwanted advances of the male officers and the constant accusations of other soldiers that she earned her promotions not through skill and talent but rather by ‘sleeping her way to the top.’ When Mila travels to America in hopes of encouraging the US to join the war, she faces a whole new set of challenges in a different culture where men (and women) are constantly underestimating her and her abilities. 

I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in history and especially the histories of those who have been forgotten. Quinn does an excellent job of writing an intriguing story while staying true to the ‘real-life’ events of the time period and Mila’s life. I also appreciated that at the end of the novel, Quinn explains where she got her information and in what ways she modified it to help her tell the story. This kind of authenticity should be utilized by all historians (not just those writing historical fiction) in my opinion as it helps the reader to more fully grasp the author’s particularity and bias as it affects their writing. 

Read on my friends!

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