I’m often guilty of having a TBR list twice my own size I rarely find myself reaching the end of a book desperate for it to never end. In fact on the contrary, I’m usually itching to start my next book. So there must be something very special and magical about Daphne Kalotav’s Russian Winter which even at the very last word had me deep with in it’s grasp and desperate not to finish.
Russian Winter is the story of Nina Revskaya, once a beautiful ballerina she is now confined to a wheelchair, crippled with arthritis, betrayed by the very body she has so devotedly perfected. When she decides to donate her entire jewellery collection to Beller auction house and give the proceeds to a ballet school Nina is suddenly flooded with a barrage of inescapable memories. The life she had tried so desperately to escape and leave behind threatens to haunt her once again. Despite her defiance that she will not return to long suppressed memories she is persistently quizzed by Drew Brooks who is leading the auction and whose own curiosity leaves her desperate to know the true origins and history of Nina’s fascinating collection.
Although meeting a wall of cold refusal from the former dancer she is given another window of hope when Professor Grigori Solodin donates a beautiful amber necklace which seems to be part of a set, the two other pieces of which Nina owns but will soon be losing to the auction. What has caused her to giver up these magnificent and valuable pieces? Why is she so secretive about their origins? And what is the connection between the pieces in her collection and Grigori’s necklace?
And so the novel is told back and forth in split time frames. In the modern day Nina tries to fight her memories and escape from her looming past. Whilst Drew and Grigori forge a friendship trying to unravel the insurmountable obscurity of this jewellery collection, Nina’s anonymous past and Grigori’s own possible connection to her.
In the past we are given small but delectable snippets of Nina’s charming and fascinating life as a young ballerina in love, surrounded by wonderful and gifted friends in the height of her career. Yet even in the innocence of youth her life is far from simple; set to backdrop of Stalin’s rule in the 1940’s the novel is very often harrowing and painful to read. Daphne displays in accurate and heartbreaking detail an image of life under unimaginable tyranny.
I must admit I had a preference for the parts of the story set in the past. There was something so utterly absorbing in reading about Nina’s life on and off stage; a life that is at times intoxicatingly glamorous and at other stiflingly oppressive.
I’ve read very few books set in this time and didn’t realise the book would so heavily feature this portrayal of communist Russia but these sections of the book actually made up some of my favourite moments in the story. I was shocked to learn so much about the secrecy and lies that haunted this time. How the constant concealment of truth could build a rift between even some of the greatest and most genuine loves.
The ending didn’t go quite as I expected and perhaps quite as I would have liked it to, but this is a book that for me had it’s strengths in the journey on a whole and not in it’s destination.
I didn’t have too many expectations when picking up this book, I love the ballet so hoped that aspect would hold my attention but what I discovered inside of those pages was so much more. Thrilling, captivating, glamorous and at times frightening. Russian Winter blends shocking historical detail with a tragic but beautiful tale of love.
A must read this year.
I read this book as part of a blog tour organised by TLC Book Tours. I’ve enjoyed reading the thoughts from the other people on this tour, and look forward to the others. You can check them out here:
Monday, February 6th: She Reads
Wednesday, February 8th: Reading With Tea
Thursday, February 9th: Fleur Fisher In Her World
Tuesday, February 14th: DizzyC’s Little Book Blog – autoher interview
Wednesday, February 15th: Pining For The West
Thursday, February 16th: Chuck’s Miscellany
Monday, February 20th: One More Page
Tuesday, February 21st: I hug My Books
Wednesday, February 22th: The Sweet Bookshelf
Thursday, February 2rd: A Book Sanctuary