- Published: March 28, 2017
- Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
- Pages: 560
- Genre: General fiction
In present-day Boston, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Russian ballet, has decided to auction her jewellery collection and donate the proceeds to the Boston Ballet Foundation. It is a mysterious gesture that has piqued the interest of two particular individuals: a rising associate director at the auction house, Drew Brooks, who seeks to unravel the provenance of the pieces; and a professor and Russian translator at the nearby university, Grigori Solodin, who believes the jewels might hold the key to his past.
The stakes are raised when an anonymous individual donates a necklace that perfectly matches the bracelet and earrings in Nina’s collection, claiming the pieces belong together. It is this donation that will bring Drew and Grigori together in unexpected ways to uncover the story behind Nina’s fabulous jewels—a bounty said to have been smuggled out of Stalinist Russia when she defected from the country in the early 1950s.
It was there, in Russia, that Nina first learned to dance, fell in love with the handsome poet Viktor Elsin, and struggled with the choice to pursue her craft or begin a family. Nina and her circle of free-thinking artist friends lived in constant fear of Stalin’s disapproval, of arrest and torture by the secret police for unpatriotic behaviour and so-called crimes against the state. Yet when their circle was broken by just such an arrest, a devastating misunderstanding parted the four friends and lovers forever.
MEET THE AUTHOR: Daphne Kalotay is the author of the award-winning novel Russian Winter, which has been published in twenty languages, and the fiction collection Calamity and Other Stories. She has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo, and has taught at Boston University, Skidmore College, Grub Street, and Middlebury College. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Russian Winter is a Dr. Zhivago-esque blend of fiction and history. There are several storylines blending together in this book with Nina, a young Russian ballerina as our principal player. She is now living in Boston and has decided to auction off the jewels she received as gifts while she was living in the Soviet Union.
Grigori Solodin, an immigrant Russian professor in Boston is haunted by artifacts in a purse he received from his parents. He is unable to determine their provenance until he learns of the auction of Nina Revskaya’s jewels.
Nina grows up in Stalinist Russia and is chosen to work for the Bolshoi Ballet. As she makes her way to becoming the principal dancer, she must choose between what comes first in her life, the Bolshoi Ballet or those she loves.
During the 1950’s in Stalinist Russia it is impossible to trust anyone, and with Nina this mistrust includes her family and friends. Intrigue, informers and fear are the background to this story. Despite the political environment, Nina falls in love with a handsome poet, Viktor Elsin. As artists, however, they are not free to pursue their own passions, they belong to Stalin.
I was concerned that I a very short time frame in which to read this 500+ page book for review. The pages flew! The author left clues throughout the book and so it was fairly easy to guess what would happen. However, I was not prepared for the gut-wrenching revelations toward the end of the book. This is a keeper!