Russian Winter

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 renowed 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 jewlery, 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.

If you are a member of the library, we have this title in different formats:
Hard copy (F K146r)
Large Print (LTF K146r GPB)
E-book
Check the catalogue for availability.

*A new book by this author: Sight Reading (F K146s)*

To read book reviews on Russian Winter, click on the links below.
From The Washington Post:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/07/AR2010090705567.html

From Lancashire Evening Post:
http://www.lep.co.uk/lifestyle/book_review_russian_winter_by_daphne_kalotay_1_3100702

For information about the author:
http://www.daphnekalotay.com/author/index.html

What did you think about this book?  Do you think this is a really good first novel?  Would you look forward to another book from this author?

Discussion Questions
Here are some questions about the story to ponder over:

-In your opinion, did Viktor Elsin truly love Nina? Did she love him? What about Gersh and Vera? What sacrifices were each willing to make for love?
-Why did Nina refuse to see Grigori on the occasions he tried to contact her? How were their assumptions about each other wrong?

Here, you will find more questions to glance at and think about.  These questions are from the author’s website:
http://www.harpercollins.com/author/microsite/readingguide.aspx?authorID=36534&isbn13=9780061962165&displayType=readingGuide

Interesting Tidbit:
According to a newspaper article written in 2009, the oldest amber piece ever found was 320 million years old.  It was found in Southern Illinois coal, by a researcher and professor  named Ken Anderson who teaches at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  For the whole story, click on the link below:
http://news.siu.edu/news/October09/100209tjc9084.html

If you want to know more about amber, consult the website for the International Amber Association:
http://amber.org.pl/en/index.php

This book reminded me of …
When I read this novel, it mirrored another book I had recently read that was actually a non-fiction title.  Although Russian Dance by Andrée Aelion Brooks  is 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.  Also, I keep thinking about the movie Black Swan.  What a coincidence that the main character in the movie 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 Swan Lake.

Favorite quote from book:
“She knows … that as soon as she steps onstage little else will matter—that in the midst of dancing, any misery, no matter how grave, becomes instantly somehow less, lessoned.  Even during the war, when each day brought news of devastation, and hunger sat like a sharp stone inside her, Nina’s anemic body always awoke to dance, always found some reserve of strength that she hadn’t known she posessed.” (p. 274)

Most favorite part of the story:
I melted when I read how Viktor tries to seduce Nina in the car on their trip home.  The scene is so subtle and sexy, I found myself blushing and fanning my face with my hand.  I found the way he kisses her hand so romantic. (p. 72-77)

Next month’s title:
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

Take the poll!

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19 Responses to Russian Winter

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