Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

The story begins in Boston.

Nina Revskaya was elderly and frail, but once she had been a prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet. She had decided to auction her jewellery collection to raise funds for the Boston Ballet Foundation, and that was stirring up memories.

Memories of life of Russia, of the days when she rose to success, when she fell in love and married the poet, Viktor Elsin. Many memories she would rather forget, and memories she did certainly not want to share.

Young associate Drew Brooks has been charged with finding the story behind the jewels, the story of Nina’s life, by Beller’s Auction House.  To find the stories, the extra colour, that will make the jewels even more valuable.

And it is clear that there are stories. Professor Grigori Solodin provided another piece of jewellery for the sale: an amber necklace that clearly matched a bracelet and earrings from Nina’s collection.

Was there a connection between the ballerina and the professor?

How, and why, were the amber jewels separated?

Grigori doesn’t know. Nina may know, but she says nothing. And Drew wants to know.

The story is set up and constructed so cleverly, and it moves seamlessly between past and present, between Russia and America.

The stories set in Russia were wonderful. They told of a ballerina’s rise to the very top of her profession. Of her love and marriage. Of her network of friends. And of life under Stalin, in a world where you were never sure who you could trust, where even the smallest sign of dissent could lead to imprisonment, exile, or even death.

Daphne Kalotay said so much in those stories, and I began to understand what it must have been like for artists, writers, dancers to live under such a terrible regime

The American story was not quite so strong, and maybe a little contrived in places, but it was still interesting. The balance felt right.

The writing was elegant; the storytelling was wonderfully subtle, and yet it never lost it grip.

This wasn’t a story that pulled me in, but a story that I had to watch, fascinated.

I had so many questions.

In the end they were all answered. And, although some extraordinary things happened, the answers rang true.

The ending came suddenly: it was a little rushed, and I wished that it had been just a little more subtle. But it was the right ending.

Russian Winter mixes ballet, jewellery, human stories and Russian history to wonderful effect.

It is an intriguing –  and very readable – debut novel.


If you’d like to find out more about Daphne and Russian Winter, you can visit her website and her Facebook page. A reading group guide is also available.

I read this book as part of a blog tour organised by TLC Book Tours.  Don’t miss the other stops on the tour to see what other readers thought of Russian Winter.

Monday, February 6th: She Reads Novels 
Wednesday, February 8th: Reading With Tea
Tuesday, February 14th: DizzyC’s Little Book Blog
Wednesday, February 15th: Pining for the West
Thursday, February 16th: Chuck’s Miscellany
Monday, February 20th: one more page
Tuesday, February 21th: I hug my books
Wednesday, February 22th: The Sweet Bookshelf
Thursday, February 23rd: A Book Sanctuary

14 responses

  1. I’m a huge fan of stories set in Russia and the Soviet Union so this book definitely appeals to me.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.

    • It was a fascinating period to read about, and informative without being heavy going. The stories were well balanced.

      And thank you!

  2. Pingback: Daphne Kalotay, author of Russian Winter, on tour February 2012 | TLC Book Tours

  3. Pingback: Russian Winter – Daphne Kalotay | A Book Sanctuary

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