Sunday, November 28, 2010
Russian Winter, by Daphne Kalotay
This is for Historical Tapestry's blog challenge - W is for Winter.
Nina Revskaya was once a petite, powerful ballerina wowing the Soviet audiences of the Bolstoi Ballet, including even Stalin himself. But time and bitterness have allied to stiffen her body, leaving her wheelchair-bound and alone, living in Boston in the new millenium. Nina has decided to auction off her large jewelry collection, ostensibly to benefit the Boston Ballet but truly, as the reader comes to learn, to rid herself of painful memories.
The novel leaps back into Nina's memories, painful and otherwise, with the grace of a ballerina and provides a convincing and harrowing depiction of Soviet Russia in the 1930s through 1950s. These flashbacks are interspesed with the connected narratives of Nina, Drew - the young woman handling the auction, and Grigori - a fifty-year-old professor of Russian literature who owns, via mysterious family connections, a necklace that appears to be a part of Nina's set. These four streams gradually move together, revealing mysteries from the past and lessons for the present.
Kalotay writes best when she's looking back at Nina's years in the Bolstoi. Those pages are rich with research and sympathy. The mystery itself is not terribly difficult to divine, but it's still a pleasure to watch unfold. In all, this was a charming book, and I look forward to Kalotay's next.