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Literary Friday: Russian Winter

Friday, October 21, 2011


This week I read Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay.  I have been on a roll lately: after many disappointing reads this year, I have been on a streak of fantastic books.  :D  There are so many things I love about this book: ballerinas, poets, intrigue, and romance, just to name a few.  It could also be classified as a  historical fiction because part of the plot revolves around artists during Stalin's regime in the former USSR.

Nina Revskaya, a former prima ballerina, defects to the West after she achieves success with the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet.  Eventually settling in Boston, Nina decides to sell her extensive jewelry collection at auction and donate the proceeds to the Boston Ballet.  One of the most intriguing sets included in the auction is a matching set of amber earrings and bracelet.  The set contain specimens: insects that are frozen in time as the resin encapsulates them. Coincidentally, a middle aged Russian Literature and Language professor, Grigori Solodin, also donates an amber pendant with a perfect specimen of a spider and its egg sac to the auction.  It appears to be a part of Nina's set, and together the pieces should raise lots of money for the ballet.

Grigori Solodin was born in Moscow in 1950 at the height of Stalin's dictatorship.  His mother was supposedly a ballerina with the Bolshoi, and she died from hemorrhaging shortly after the birth.  When Grigori was 13, his adoptive parents (scientists who also defected to the West) gave him a purse that contained letters, photographs, and the amber pendant.  Nina Revskaya and her poet husband, Viktor Elsin, were in the photographs. Grigori confronted Nina as a young college student, but she would not tell him anything about his mother.

At the Boston auction house, Drew Brooks, a young associate, is writing the auction brochure and supplement.  She wants to solve the mystery of the matching amber set, and she presses Grigori and Nina for answers.  Nina is obstinate, and the reader does not understand why until much later in the book.  Grigori is a bit more helpful, but he is not telling his whole story, either. Grigori becomes increasingly attracted to Drew, which is a huge surprise to him.  He has been grieving for his wife, Christine, who died two years ago from cancer.  Once Grigori tells Drew everything he knows, Drew has insight that surprises, yet disturbs Grigori about his past. Ironically, Drew also has a strange connection to the story through her Russian ancestry.

As the story weaves back and forth from Stalinist Russia to Boston in the early '00's, Kalotay spins a heartbreaking story of lost friendship, deception, heartbreak, and hope.  The book also teaches an important lesson that it is never too late to do the right thing, and that sometimes forgiveness begins with forgiving oneself.  This one just might make my short list, although it was published in late 2010.  I am just now getting around to reading it!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. I am going to see if I can find this on my Kindle. I too have had some disappointing reads this year so thank you for posting about this!!

    Happy Friday my Friend!

  2. This looks good. I think this would make a wonderful little something extra for my mother in law for Christmas. I am going to order it from Amazon for her right now. This is so her.

  3. I have heard oodles of good things about this book. Must find time to read it soon!

  4. This sounds like a really good read! It just went on my list!

  5. That sounds like a book that I would love! I'll put it on my list! I always enjoy reading the same books you read! Enjoy your weekend! ♥

  6. I'm going to add this one to my list.

  7. Oh boy, another one to add to my list. It's really getting to be a big one. SIGH!!!

  8. Can hardly wait for eye surgery so I can start reading again ... it is difficult just to type/blog. Will put this on my futures list.

    Have a beautiful weekend ~
    TTFN ~

  9. This one sounds a bit heavy to me but every now and then I like to feel like I still have it and read something deep. I'll keep this one in mind.

    I have a number of LJ Smith on my TBR pile, have you seen the new tv show The Secret Cirlce it's supposed to be based on one of her series as is The Vampire Diaries (which I love the changes the tv show made). I have infernal devices somewhere around here, I think, that or its on my WL I'll have to move it up.

    Thanks for the wonderful review and great comments on my blog. This is fun!


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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