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What I’m reading: Russian Winter, by Daphne Kalotay

May 15, 2011
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I’ve spent the afternoon curled up on the couch with a book–one of my very favorite ways to spend the day. I’ve been reading Russian Winter; it is quite wonderful.

Nina Revskaya was an idealistic and patriotic star of the Bolshoi Ballet; fifty years later she is crippled by rheumatism, living alone in a Boston flat with only her nurse to urge her to take medicine for her constant pain.

Nina decides to auction off her extensive jewel collection and to donate the proceeds to the local arts community–actually, she is avoiding a confrontation with Grigori Solodin, a professor of Russian poetry, who believes she has the answers to his questions.

Drew Brooks, a gemologist who works at the auction house Nina contacts, is surprised when Grigori anonymously donates a piece that completes Nina’s collection. While Grigori and Drew investigate Russian documents to find the province of the collection, Nina’s memories of Soviet life become impossible to ignore.

Good god, was this a great book. I downed it in one long, lovely gulp; I didn’t come up for air until it was over and done, the ballet slippers put away, applause dying down, crowd gone home. It was a little bit Black Swan (ballet, Swan Lake, back stage rivalry), a little bit Dr. Zhivago (bone-crunching poverty of the Stalinist state, political maneuverings, late-night KGB visits), a little bit Possession (an academic mystery–in that the clues aren’t footprints, but artifacts and articles–investigating an earlier, unknown time through previously unrelated or undiscovered letters, photographs, articles, news-clippings, a romance from the past mirroring a romance in the present, lots of lovely time in the archives and musings about the life of the mind.) 

Wonderful read–well-written, intelligently plotted and highly, highly recommended.

 

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