Saturday, September 11, 2010

Russian Winter

Flower, my friend.

The cover got me. I had to stop and look. It's pretty isn't it? Even though there is nothing at all original about the art. The cover beckons but alas it does not fulfill. It's unfinished. It's the start of a beautiful cover and yet it's oddly blank. The flat clarity of the figure verses the worn depth of the background surface don't mesh. They fight each other instead of complimenting each other. Sadly that turned out to be a prophecy for the novel.

Russian Winter is a cradle to grave story of Nina Revekaya a once great ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet now living out her remaining days in Boston with only her maid for company. Her past comes to light when she decides to auction her jewels for the benefit of the Boston Ballet Foundation. Her secrets are pursued by a young associate from the auction house and a professor of Russian who believes that Nina can explain the mysteries from his own past.

The sections of the novel about life in Stalinist Russia and those regarding everything to do with ballet, both the work and the rewards, were very interesting. Author Daphne Kalotay has done her research. The lives of the artists, the fearful politics, the efforts of creativity under a repressive regime, Kalotay successfully builds a you-are-there world for all of that and love affairs, betrayals and heartbreak. However as often happens with stories that straddle the past and the present none of the contemporary elements of the novel come close to capturing your attention and involvement to the same degree as the historic elements do.

You won't be reading Russian Winter for the plot. It's old fashioned, picaresque and all ready to be Audrey Hepburn's greatest screen triumph of 1958. It's also entertaining but if you haven't figured out what will happen by page 62 you need to hang up your toe shoes. You will be reading Russian Winter to be enveloped in a specific moment in history in a fascinating backstage environment.


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