Friday, October 15, 2010
Russian Winter - Daphne Kalotay
Nina Revskaya was once a prima ballerina for the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. Her life was relatively comfortable, given that she lived in Stalinist Russia; but after a series of events that cause her to question her own life, she defects to the West. Now old, frail, and living in Boston, she decides to put her substantial jewelry collection up for auction.
Grigori Solodin is a professor of Russian literature, noted for the translation of the poems of a celebrated Russian poet. Adopted at birth, he has always wondered about his birth parents, and with the recent death of his beloved wife he has unconsciously been searching for some sort of intimate connection.
Based on these two character summaries, one might automatically jump to conclusions about how their stories unfold, but it is not quite so simple. Russian Winter is about loneliness, yes, but it is also about passion - for people, for a vocation - and how at times the two must co-exist. The author does a fine job of mingling these emotions so that one is not always sure what the characters are feeling. The settings of the novel -- Moscow of the late 1940s/early 1950s and present-day Boston -- also add a cold, lonely atmosphere.
It's hard to talk about the plot without giving a lot away, but I enjoyed the pace of this novel and even though I thought I knew how it was going to turn out, a few twists came up to surprise me. I would have liked to read more about how she came to own her jewelry (we only know the story behind a few key pieces) but other than that it was an entertaining book.