Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the absolutely gorgeous story of Nina Revskaya, once a star of the Bolshoi Ballet who decides to auction her extensive jewelry collection in hopes that it will put to rest memories of the past. Growing up in Stalinist Russia, Nina witnessed heartbreak and persecution as she saw dear friends taken away and makes a devastating mistake that shapes the rest of her life. And then there is Grigori Solodin, a professor of Russian who believes that some of jewels he owns connects him to Nina. Grigori, along with auction house associate Drew Brooks decide to solve this mystery and figure out Grigori's confused past.
The author created a richly textured plot that unfolds slowly and gently like the petals of a flower opening, switching from present day Boston back to Russia in the 1950s. I like how she wrote the novel, but it takes some concentration to keep ahold of where the story line is going. I also really enjoyed her characters and feel that they are quite developed and easy to imagine. Learning about Russia during this time period was something new for me; really opened my eyes to the difficulty of living under Stalin's rule. I can't imagine worrying about every word you say or write, even in jest, because it could get you thrown in jail or worse.
The story also dealt with two of my favorite things - fine jewelry and the ballet. I love how the author begins each new chapter with a description of one of the pieces of jewelry up for auction. A neat way to weave the auction in and out of each part of the plot. Also, I liked reading about ballet and the costumes and the exercises, the toe shoes, the pain of joints and toes and the beauty created.
One of my other favorite things is the tender love story between two of the characters (I'm not going to say who) and how they find something in each other that they didn't think was possible. I read over and over again the passage where they have their first embrace - just a simple hug but it was so filled with emotion.
I am definitely looking forward to reading more of this author's creations.
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