Monday, February 18, 2013

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

TITLE: Russian Winter
AUTHOR: Daphne Kalotay
SOURCE: Stolen from my mother

Goodreads / Author

You know what I love more than anything? Books that make me want to immerse myself in other books. Books that celebrate literature and the arts and tell a story that intertwines all the seemingly esoteric things that I concern myself with and gives them weight. I love it when a book can do all those things and still tell a compelling story. Believe me when I say that Russian Winter did exactly that. It's heartbreaking and beautiful. I pretty much loved it. 

Russian Winter opens with once famed Bolshoi ballerina Nina Revskaya auctioning off her jewelry. She thinks she is taking a final step in forgetting her past, but the memories won't leave her. At the same time, Grigori Solodin is trying to recover from his wife's death and figure out why his own past includes an amber necklace that matches Revskaya's. 

This book really was beautiful and touching. I have no other words to accurately describe it. The plot worked so well and while at first I only wanted to read about Revskaya's past in the Soviet Union, the transitions between the past and present were so smooth that I was quickly sucked into both story lines. From the auction to the ballet I was entranced. 

So Nina Revskaya, not the most likable character and I'm okay with that. She's selfish, she ignores the needs of her good friends, husband, mother for ballet and her career. But she's just such a well drawn character and faces so many tough choices I still felt for her. In fact all the characterizations rung true. They all came from such specific worlds, soviet dancers, poets and composers, gemologists, professors and they spoke of their work with love and affection, but it didn't seem forced. The characters all fit into their worlds which was one of my favourite parts of the book. I appreciated the care and insight that went into creating these characters. They were believable, you could be moved by them as a reader and I definitely was. 

I loved that the characters had passions and I really loved the glimpse into their inner worlds. Ballerinas, composers, literary figures intermingling. Looking into the backrooms and watching them struggle to produce something worthwhile in a world with increasing restrictions. Fearing for their own lives and those of their families. It was all just so well written. Then moving into the minutiae of the modern world and examining the evidence with Solodin and others, it just worked! I could probably go on at length, but I won't. 

The plot's pacing and this finely tuned mystery also worked well. I kept wanting to read more to find out what exactly these jewels meant. How did Revskaya defect and why does she want so badly to escape her past? I figured going in it would tear my heart apart and it did.

Basically, history, the arts, believable characters, Russian Winter just combines everything I love in a book in one place. And just for the record, my mom is never getting this book back.

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