Review: Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

12 Oct

Russian WinterMy rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Russian Winter was an all-round wonderful read!

Summary via

In a time of fear and danger, they were determined to live a life of beauty and grace . . .

When she decides to auction her remarkable jewelry collection, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Bolshoi ballet, believes she has drawn a curtain on her past. Instead, the aged dancer 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 before.

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

Nina has hidden her dark secrets for half a lifetime. But two people will not let the past rest—Drew Brooks, an inquisitive young associate director at the Boston auction house, and a Russian professor named Grigori Solodin who believes that a unique set of amber jewels may hold the key to his own ambiguous past. Together, these unlikely partners find themselves unraveling a literary mystery whose answers will hold life-changing consequences for them all.

Nina Revskaya was the best part of Russian Winter, in both her younger and older guises. She had such a strong, vibrant personality, and I loved seeing how the one grew into the other.

The historical sections of the book gave me a glimpse I’d never seen into post WWII Russia, and what life was like there. I also enjoyed the ups and downs of life as a prima ballerina– the love of dance, the very hard work, the recognition, and what she had to give up for it.

The modern parts presented a wonderful puzzle, based on jewelry from that long lost era.

Throughout all of this are an array of fantastic characters that really came to life, whether they had a major roles or minor ones. Certainly, Nina; her husband Victor Elsin, a well known but not quite famous poet; Grigori Solodin, the translator who has dedicated his career to Elsin for not quit objective reasons; and Drew, who stumbles into the questions that Nina’s jewels bring to the surface, and pursues the answers (personal and professional) that she needs; these major characters are memorable. So are those of Victor’s mother, a displaced aristocrat; Vera, Nina’s childhood friend; and more.

Beyond the characters, I also loved the intricate puzzle, as complicated as only human secrets could make it. Fifty years of hiding and silence, with most of the major players having passed away, means that answers are scarce, but pieces came together in ways I hoped, and others in ways I never expected.

Russian Winter was a slow read for me, not because it was difficult or because it wasn’t enjoyable, but because that was the pace of the book, and that’s how I wanted to read it.

The book was emotionally satisfying and intellectually stimulating. The writing was beautiful, adding up to a wonderful book.

I’m not sure I captured the spirit of Russian Winter. Reading some of these reviews might help:

I received this book for review from Harper Collins. Thank you for this opportunity!


Posted by on October 12, 2010 in books, reviews


Tags: , , ,

7 responses to “Review: Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

  1. Mary

    October 12, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Nice review – really makes me want to read it soon. Hopefully before the end of the year.

  2. Dawn - She Is Too Fond of Books

    October 12, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    I especially loved the historic sections of RUSSIAN WINTER – Kalotay really made the reader connect with the personal story of people living in Stalinist Russia … I won’t soon forget that paranoia they lived with!

    Thanks for linking to my review, Laura!

  3. Care

    October 13, 2010 at 4:49 am

    I want to read this – I think I first saw it on Dawn’s blog. AND the author is going to be at the Boston BOok fest – hopefully I can meet her!

  4. nomadreader (Carrie)

    October 15, 2010 at 7:34 am

    I’m really looking forward to this one!

  5. bermudaonion

    October 16, 2010 at 6:56 am

    I’ve been wanting to read this ever since I saw Booking Mama’s review too. Glad to see you loved it too!

  6. Julie P.

    October 16, 2010 at 8:03 am

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this one and thanks so much for checking it out based on my review. It’s definitely one of my favorites of 2010.


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