Daughters of Victory

Morrow. Jan. 2023. 512p. ISBN 9780063246492. pap. $17.99. F
Saab’s 2021 debut novel, The Last Checkmate, featured a teenage heroine whose chess skills help her survive Auschwitz. Drawing again on catastrophic upheavals of history, Saab now portrays young women able to hold their own as fierce fighters and political plotters. The titular daughters are three generations of Russian women whose adventuresome lives span revolution and war, 1917–43. Svetlana rejects her noble roots, joins the Social Revolutionaries to battle the Bolsheviks, and tries to assassinate Lenin. Her daughter, Tatiana, is left in a Ukrainian orphanage but World War II finds her in the siege of Leningrad. The granddaughter, Mila, sent to shelter with Svetlana in Vitebsk, joins the anti-German partisans. Weaponless, she uses forest mushrooms to poison the hated occupiers. Dedication to lofty political goals does not distract the women from passionate attachments to their manly comrades-in-arms. The action between the sheets rivals the action in the streets. Challenged by hateful enemies, Saab’s protagonists absorb punishing blows, but their wily resilience lets them live and love another day.
VERDICT Reminiscent of Janet Fitch’s novels about the Russian Revolution, Saab’s book indulgently lingers too long in several plot complications.
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