Review Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

Description (from cover): 

“A mysterious jewel holds the key to a life-changing secret, in this breathtaking tale of love and art, betrayal and redemption.

When she decides to auction her remarkable jewelry collection, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Bolshoi Ballet, believes she has finally drawn a curtain on her past. Instead the former ballerina finds herself overwhelmed by memories of her homeland and of the events, both glorious and heartbreaking, that changed the course of life half a century ago. It was in Russia that she discovered the magic of the theater; that she fell in love with the poet Viktor Elsin; that she and her dearest companions–Gersh, a brilliant composer, and the the exquisite Vera, Nina’s closest friend–became victims of Stalinist aggression. And it was in Russia that a terrible discovery incited a deadly act of betrayal–and a ingenious escape that led Nina to the West and eventually to Boston. Nina has kept her secrets for half a lifetime. But two people will not let the past rest: Drew Brooks, an inquisitive young associate at a Boston auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor of Russian who believes that a unique set of jewels may hold the key to his own ambiguous past. Together these unlikely partners begin to unravel a mystery surrounding a love letter, a poem, and a necklace of unknown provenance, setting in motion a series of revelations that will have life altering consequences for them all. Interweaving past and present, Moscow and New England, the backstage tumult of the dance world and the transformative power of art, Daphne Kalotay’s luminous first novel–a literary page-turner of the highest order–captures the uncertainty and terror of individuals powerless to withstand the forces of history, while affirming that even in times of great strife, the human spirit reaches for beauty and grace, forgiveness and transcendence.”

  My thoughts:
         I was prepared to love this book with my newly found interest in all things Russian. This novel is about Russia in a troubled time where Communism controls everything. From what musicians can compose, what poets can write about. It’s as if every thought was thought out for you and if you opposed that view you could find yourself in prison or even facing death. This novel is about the brilliance of the ballet and the Communist restrictions on art in the Commonwealth of Russia in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. I was appalled at the restrictions that were placed on the people of Russian by the Stalinist regime. If you bought a car it appeared in the newspaper as if it was frowned upon to have any sort of wealth. A place where art was embraced in all its form as long as it met the demands of the regime. Having to attend classes where you are taught the teachings of Karl Marx that were required. The almost forced poverty of the Russian people. Having being raised in a Capitalist society it was a bit of an eye opener to see what these people had to live through and some still do in Communist countries today. 
       I enjoyed this book with its rich historical details featuring the beautiful and demanding world of the ballet. I have never been much for ballet, but this book had just enough details to make you interested but not overwhelmed with the sense the author wanted to portray. The main character Nina is quite loveable as a youth growing up in Communist Russia and you can’t help but feel for her and want her to succeed. You also get to see Nina as an elderly person set in the modern times and see how her past has shaped her into who she is today and how her past still haunts her. At times I felt that the plot was predictable but the story and the characters flowed well and it was overall a good read. I highly recommend this book if you are curious about the restrictions of a socialist society and if you want to learn more about Russia and the ballet. However, if you are looking for a page turner or something with a little intrigue this book is not for you. 

Overall Rating: 3/5 

Title: Russian Winter
Author: Daphne Kalotay
Series: N/A
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: September 7, 2010
Pages: 480
Genre: Historical Fiction

 Disclaimer: This book was selected from the library by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind.  All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

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