Saturday, October 23, 2010

Russian Winter

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay
Harper, 2010
459 pages
Historical Fiction; Literary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Nina Revskaya, a former ballerina in the Bolshoi and defector, is preparing to auction off some of her glorious jewelry and thus finally silence the past.  But two people, Drew Brooks from an auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor with a mysterious past of his own, won't let the secrets remain unspoken.

Thoughts:  I saw this advertised on goodreads and then saw it at my library so I grabbed it even though I was already reading some other stuff.

It shifts between about 1950s USSR and 2003 New England, USA (References are made to the president's preparing for war and the fact that there's an election the next year).  The historical sections were more gripping to me; I don't know much about the USSR and it was interesting to read about.  I want to know more.  It was disorienting to read a book published this year but set seven years ago although that doesn't matter so much. 

The relationships between the characters were okay; I preferred the other areas such as descriptions of the jewelry and the insights in to the working of Soviet Russia (Twice does Nina see Stalin up close) and how people dealt with that (hint: not well).  There are also musings on the importance of art, literature, and love.  Grigori is a professor and friendly with a Hungarian poet who speaks about the latter two at one point.  Nina was married to a poet and had two main friendships with fellow ballerinas and their lovers who do the majority of actions in the historical sections.  Present day is a bringing together of Drew and Grigori to excavate Nina's past, where she remembers betrayals, both real and imagined.

Overall: A slowish book that could be rewarding if you like those kind of stories.  I wanted to love it but I did not.

Cover: I'm not entirely sure why the pendant is on backwards nor why the woman's hair is that color but the colors work nicely together.


  1. Great review! When I saw this book on Goodreads, I just ignored it because I confess, Russia in the time of Stalin is not my thing. But after reading your review, I'd like to give this book a try some time in the future. I don't mind a slowish book if it has something to tell. The cover is pretty, but yes, a bit weird with the pendant on her back.

  2. I've seen this book advertised all over and have been on the fence about it. Your thoughtful review has me even more curious. I actually don't mind slowish but rewarding stories--when I am in the mood for them and have the time to sit back and enjoy them. So if I do decide to tackle this one I'll have to time my reading right.
    Susan at Reading World


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