This book by Daphne Kalotay is one of my favorites. It is her debut novel and I need to say that she has started on the right track. There are secrets, romantic relationships and unfortunate misunderstandings.
Nina Revskaya was once a renowned ballet dancer in the famous Russian Ballet during Stalin’s occupation but now she is an old woman in America, looking back on her life with a feeling of loss and regret. Secrets from her young life crop up when an adamant Grigori Solodin tries to speak to her and get her to admit that they are somehow related to each other, or that she at least knows about his biological family.
He realizes this when he sees that she is auctioning off her collection of rare amber jewelry, which he owns one piece of. Between the telling of Nina’s life growing up in Russia and the present day stories of Grigori and Drew, we are sucked into a world where anything seems possible or carries some kind of hope.
What we know about Nina’s husband, Viktor, is that he never made it out to America—but she did. They also never had children because of her passionate dancing career. There is a sense of sadness and pain when we look at her past in Russia, but also of good memories that unfortunately do not convince Nina that her life was most remarkable.
I was swept away by the different relationships that are formed, whether in late 1940′s Moscow or present day Boston. I loved the storyline that embeds Grigori into the plot, and how Nina comes to terms with him in the end.
When I read this novel, it mirrored another book I had read that was actually a non-fiction title. Although Russian Dance by Andrée Aelion Brooksis about an American woman who falls for a Russian doctor, the time frame is the same and they both take place in America and Russia. Another title that I thought about recently is David R. Gillham’s book, City of Women. There is that whole feeling of mistrust in the days where the government kept tabs on everyone and where suspicious citizens were punished if they did not conform to what was expected. There is also the relationship between young wife and sour mother-in-law in both stories, which is strikingly similar. As well, I keep thinking about the movie Black Swan. What a coincidence that the main character in the film is also named Nina! As far as similarities between the two, however, the only thing that is the same is the passion for ballet dancing and performing in Swan Lake.
Did anyone read Russian Winter? If so, what did you think? Would you read another book by this author?
Next month’s title: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen