Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

I was asked if I would like to receive a copy of this book for review and as I had heard good things of it I said, yes please. As I grew up in the Cold War era Russia and the USSR have always fascinated me, but when I got the book I was somewhat aghast to see that it is 466 pages long, what with me having so many books to read. However this turned out not to be a problem at all.

The book begins in Nina Revskaya’s apartment in Boston, Massachussetts, she’s now elderly, crippled with arthritis and confined to a wheelchair. Nina had been a prima ballerina, first at the Bolshoi in USSR and the storyline twists and winds its way along from the Boston of today and back to Moscow of the 1930s when Nina is accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet School as a young girl.

The action flips backwards and forwards between the two worlds but it’s never difficult to follow. In Boston, Nina has decided to put her jewellery collection up for auction, with the proceeds going to the Boston Ballet. It transpires that a visit from a stranger in the shape of Grigori Solodin who is trying to solve a personal mystery, has dredged up old painful memories of her former life in Russia and Nina realises that she made a mistake years before which had terrible consequences for those who were left behind in Stalinist Russia. It was a time when people kept secrets from everyone, which led to them coming to conclusions which could be very far from the truth.

I really enjoyed this book and when I got to page 466 I was sorry that the end had come so soon and very abruptly but on the other hand, I suppose everything had been said that needed to be said. The storyline was woven and intertwined like a long plait of hair, with strands like that of the young ballet dancers disappearing for a while and then reappearing.

Daphne Kalotay has researched her subject well and so Russian Winter has lots of details of how ballerinas and ordinary ‘comrades’ lived in pre and post World War II Russia which all added up to a fascinating read for me, as I can remember clearly the times when various famous Russians did manage to slip away from their minders whilst they were on tour outside the Soviet Union.

My thanks go to Arrow books for sending me a copy of Russian Winter which is now out in paperback.

These are the other bloggers who are reviewing Russian Winter:-

Monday, February 6th: She Reads Novels
Wednesday, February 8th: Reading With Tea
Thursday, February 9th: Fleur Fisher in her world
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

13 thoughts on “Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

  1. It sounds like this turned out to be good in the end. I read about 1/3 of it before I gave up. Something about the tone bothered me so I was disappointed because I have a bit of a fascination with the ballet.

    • Anbolyn,
      I really enjoyed the ballet bits as I did do a bit of leaping about in a pink tutu as a wee girl (who didn’t?!) I also liked the details of life in a famous ballet school. I had imagined that they would have had a more luxurious life than the ordinary people of Russia but it was still very tough for them. I thought she wrote very well about the performance of Swan Lake too.

  2. I am really looking forward to getting ths book and reading it as I have heard so much about it.

    I loved Russian History when I was at school,college and university.

    • Jo,
      Me too, whether it’s Russian Imperial history or post revolution – it’s all so interesting, I have loads of Russian history books, I wish I had been able to study it at uni.

  3. Katrina,
    I enjoyed this novel thoroughly and, like others, appreciated the bird’s eye view of the ballet world in the Soviet Union. I think I read it in 2010, which is when I discussed it on my blog. My mom read it and liked it, too. I have it on a shelf in my tall bedroom bookcase. I like seeing it there, thinking I’ll reread it one day.

    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

    • Judith,
      I was sure that you had enjoyed reading it, which is why I thought I’d like it too. According to the author’s note and sources at the back of the book she really seems to have researched how things were in the Soviet Union at the time, and the experiences of ballet dancers. It was all very different from how I had imagined it. I might give it a reread one day, if I ever get through my TBR piles!

    • Heather J,
      It’s well written so it’s a smooth, quick read, despite being quite long. I’ll probably even re-read it sometime in the future and I don’t often do that. Thanks for including me in the tour.


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