Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review: Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

Welcome to the next stop in the TLC Book Tour of Daphne Kalotay's Russian Winter.  We have quite a few blogs participating in the promotion of this beautiful novel-- I encourage you to stop by the other sites on the tour:

Participating Blogs

Tuesday, April 5th: Library Queue
Wednesday, April 6th: Luxury Reading
Thursday, April 7th: nomadreader
Friday, April 8th: Chefdruck Musings
Monday, April 11th: A Few More Pages
Wednesday, April 13th: Red Lady's Reading Room
Thursday, April 14th: We Be Reading
Tuesday, April 19th: Books Like Breathing
Thursday, April 21st: Book Addiction
Monday, April 25th: Red Headed Book Child
Wednesday, April 27th: Bloggin' 'Bout Books
Thursday, April 28th: Calico Critic
Friday, April 29th: Wordsmithonia
Monday, May 2nd: Historical Tapestry
Tuesday, May 3rd: Man of La Book
Wednesday, May 4th: In the Next Room
Thursday, May 5th: Life in the Thumb
Friday, May 6th: she reads and reads

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Russian Winter: A Novel (P.S.)
From Goodreads:

A mysterious jewel holds the key to a life-changing secret,
in this breathtaking tale of love and art, betrayal and redemption.

When she decides to auction her remarkable jewelry collection, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Bolshoi Ballet, believes she has finally drawn a curtain on her past. Instead, the former ballerina finds herself overwhelmed by memories of her homeland and of the events, both glorious and heartbreaking, that changed the course of her life half a century ago.

It was in Russia that she discovered the magic of the theater; that she fell in love with the poet Viktor Elsin; that she and her dearest companions—Gersh, a brilliant composer, and the exquisite Vera, Nina’s closest friend—became victims of Stalinist aggression. And it was in Russia that a terrible discovery incited a deadly act of betrayal—and an ingenious escape that led Nina to the West and eventually to Boston.

Nina has kept her secrets for half a lifetime. But two people will not let the past rest: Drew Brooks, an inquisitive young associate at a Boston auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor of Russian who believes that a unique set of jewels may hold the key to his own ambiguous past. Together these unlikely partners begin to unravel a mystery surrounding a love letter, a poem, and a necklace of unknown provenance, setting in motion a series of revelations that will have life-altering consequences for them all.

Interweaving past and present, Moscow and New England, the backstage tumult of the dance world and the transformative power of art, Daphne Kalotay’s luminous first novel—a literary page-turner of the highest order—captures the uncertainty and terror of individuals powerless to withstand the forces of history, while affirming that even in times of great strife, the human spirit reaches for beauty and grace, forgiveness and transcendence.

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Daphne Kalotay
First let me say that I was stunned to learn that this is Daphne Kalotay's debut novel.  Her writing style is so well formed, such a delight to absorb.  At almost 500 pages, Russian Winter is not a quick read, but it somehow retains the feel of a page-turner.  Dozens of pages would go by without notice, in my experience.  It does not have the feel of a first-time novel.

Upon further research of Ms. Kalotay, I found that she is actually quite an educated, experienced writer.  She has studied psychology (which makes sense in the descriptions of how her characters were thinking), fiction writing, Modern and Contemporary Literature.  She's won awards and has had work published in several periodicals.  So while this is her first full-length published novel, she is certainly no amateur.  Her experience and wonderful talent are clearly evident in her work.

Russian Winter is a wonderful piece.  Epic in scope, it revolves around the exquisite ballerina Nina Revskaya, who began dancing in 1930s Russia and went on to be quite the luminary with Bolshoi Ballet, before a dramatic escape from her Stalinist country to the United States.  She has her secrets, but this novel is not a mere mystery.  It's a tale of relationships, forgiveness and the beauty and necessity of art.  Not told in straight chronological fashion, it alternates between present day and other time periods in the past seven or so decades.  I love time-travel stories, and while this certainly is not that, it had that feel.  I suppose that Kalotay's writing was so effective, I felt immersed in the time period in which I was reading at any given moment.  Her transitions were not jarring or confusing, but almost dream-like.

If you are looking for a long, lush, engrossing read with secret intrigue, beauty and wonderful plot and character development, look no further.  Take your time with this one, and enjoy every bite.  It's the kind of book that you will relish and will also not look forward to finishing.  I'd love to revisit it again on the big screen, but I can't imagine that a film could do it proper justice.  It's a rare moment when this film buff would say-- Leave it be.  A screen would diminish it somehow.

Russian Winter was six years in the making.  I'm sure it was a labor of love by Daphne Kalotay, with many hours in research and revision.  I'm thankful for her efforts, for she has given a gift to the world that will be enjoyed for years to come.

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To supplement your enjoyment of the book, check out these resources:



  1. I'm glad you liked this one! Its an odd book, but it sticks with you.

  2. I love the fact that you were so immersed in each time period that the book felt like a time travel novel. It sounds amazing! I'm fascinated with Soviet era history so I'm certain I'd enjoy this one.

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  3. I loved this one! And, I agree with you about putting it on screen. One part of me says, "Yes! Do it" and the other part of me says that you could never do it justice.
    2 Kids and Tired Books

  4. Nice review, interesting book. Stopping by from Cym Lowell's blog.

  5. This one has been on my to-buy list since it came out. And I love your review of it!

    Hopping by from Cym's!

  6. I love a good historical read. Had not heard of this one but off to add to my wishlist.


    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com



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