I enjoyed Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay for all of those reasons and more.
Unfortunately, it’s often hard for me to write a review about a book that drew me in so completely. It’s been a week or so since I finished it, but I still feel a little fogged in by it. It wasn’t overly sad or surprising or earth-shattering, but it was captivating.
Retired and aging ballerina Nina Revskaya has decided to auction off her extensive jewelry collection to benefit the ballet. It’s obvious that this jewelry has brought her pain, but no one is sure why. In her old age, she’s crippled with pain, but is also emotionally crippled and refuses to open up to anyone — not Drew Brooks, the young woman recovering from her own broken life who is in charge of the auction; not her home care nurse Cynthia, who shows nothing but kindness to her; and not Grigori Solodin who is sure that they have a connection from their past.
It is the mystery of Nina’s life that unravels as we go back to her life in the 50’s in Russia, under Stalin’s rule that targeted the people in Nina’s social circle — other artists — as being dangerous and subversive. Bit by bit we begin to see why she’s so eager to get rid of the jewels.
Her story is told and we learn about her, but I didn’t feel as intimate with her as with some of the other supporting characters, namely Drew Brooks and Grigori Solodin, and even some of the other Russian ballerinas.
Other reviews I read mentioned the need to take time to savor this book. I’m not exactly sure what this means, other than the fact of it being 496 pages equals many hours spent reading. I didn’t find that I had to or wanted to take it slow. It was one of those books that had me reaching for it in every free moment. That surprised me, and for that reason, I can’t help but include it in our list of 5 Star Reads.
Jennifer Donovan notes the irony of posting a review for a book with Winter in the title during the unofficial kick off to summer that is Memorial Day weekend. She blogs at Snapshot.