Russian Winter is Daphne Kalotay’s first novel and she’s a master of the craft already. I was hooked right from the beginning and I’m happy to admit that I finished the book rather quickly, as quickly as it is possible these days. This was one of those books that you read in a single sitting, hesitating to put it down in case you don’t have another opportunity in the next ten minutes to pick it up again. I read the book while playing with M. I read it while he watched TV. I took it to the loo. I read it while working (ahem).
Yes. It is that good.
Nina Revskaya was once a prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet in Stalinist Russia. That was a long time ago, though. Life, dance and a series of events have taken their toll on her. In her 80s and in ill-health, Nina decides to auction her jewellery collection to benefit the Boston Ballet Foundation.
This auction attracts a lot of attention. It is not everyday that the jewels of a former ballerina are made accessible to the public to see and admire. As the days progress, the impending auction brings new characters, new developments.
The book takes us back in time to Nina’s childhood and introduces her to her best friend Vera. Both become ballerinas but they have very different lives, the threads of which intersect at some point, leaving them irrecoverably entangled in each other.
The book teaches you about Russia, about ballet and life on your toes. It shows you the workings of an auction house and makes you run through twists and turns as the characters go back and forth between the past and the present.
One of my favourite scenes in the book is when a group of ballerinas on a tour of East Germany happen to mistakenly take the train over to the West. When they step out, they are speechless, because it is all so different from what they had imagined, from what they had been told over and over again. The joy and amazement of seeing colourful fruit for the first time is so beautifully described and is a scene that will stay with me for a long time.
Title: Russian Winter
Author: Daphne Kalotay
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Paperback: 416 pages
Review Copy : From publisher