1930’s Moscow – a warm summer’s day in June will prove to be a significant one for nine year old Nina Revskaya. Along with her childhood friend Vera, this is the day she first auditions for the Bolshoi Ballet School. It is the era of Stalin and sadly by days end Vera’s parents will have mysteriously disappeared. It will be many years before Nina sees Vera again.
By stark contrast it is also the day Nina glimpses what life outside the Soviet Union could be like. A glamorous American woman in beautiful clothes exits an expensive hotel as the girls and Nina’s mother walk by. Nina is mesmerised by the delicate diamond ear rings the woman wears – she has never seen such beautiful jewels, never known such a life existed.
Boston – seventy years later, Nina, the world famous prima ballerina, has decided to auction off some of her formidable jewellery collection. Of particular interest is an amber bracelet and ear rings – along with the matching necklace annonymously donated to the auction house. Nina is a woman with secrets, secrets she intends to keep to herself. As the story flashes back to Nina’s life in Soviet Russia, it becomes obvious why. From the sacrifices required to remain a top ballerina, the oppression and suspicion of life under Stalin and the love Nina has for her artist friends and her beloved husband the poet Viktor Elsin – runs a common thread of betrayal and tragedy.
Charged with tracing the provenance of the jewellery is Drew Brooks, the young auctioneer organising the sale, who herself has Russian ancestory. Assisting her is Grigori Solodin, a Professor of Russian studies and a man with questions about his own past.
I liked this book. I liked the main story, the part that took place in Russia – I found the current day story set in Boston less engrossing but it did grow on me. I’m not usually the biggest fan of dual time periods in a book for that reason, so I’m not suprised to have found one story stronger.
Daphne Kalotay spent six years researching and writing Russian Winter. She makes clever use of her research to provide an intriguing historical setting, enough detail to enhance but not engulf the story. I came away entertained rather than overwhelmed. For readers looking to delve further into the world of ballet, jewellery and life behind the Iron Curtain, there is an excellent list in the authors notes and sources at the end of the book. I would like to read all of them!
2010, 459 pages
To check out other stops on the tour, pop over to the readers below:
Monday, February 6th: She Reads Novels
Wednesday, February 8th: Reading With Tea
Thursday, February 9th: Fleur Fisher in her World
Tuesday, February 14th: DizzyC’s Little Book Blog
Wednesday, February 15th: Pining for the West
Thursday, February 16th: Chuck’s Miscellany
Monday, February 20th: one more page
Tuesday, February 21th: I hug my books
Wednesday, February 22th: The Sweet Bookshelf