Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

Nina Revskaya, once a famous ballet dancer, is auctioning off her equally famous jewelry collection. Supposedly it is to raise money for the arts, but Nina has more personal reasons for wanting to get rid of all her jewelry, although they are among the few things she still has left from Russia, since she defected in 1952. Drew Brooks is handling the jewelry's auction, and finds herself in the middle of a very strange story. Grigori Solodin, a 50 year old Russian professor, has a piece of amber jewelry that he thinks matches those that belong to Nina. He has tried to speak to Nina about this before, believing the piece of jewelry holds the key to his unknown parentage, but Nina has never allowed him to speak to her. Drew is trying to piece it all together, as she attempts to prove if Grigori's jewelry is indeed a missing piece to Nina's.

As the stories in the present are told, it is interspersed with the story of Nina's past in Russia, becoming a dancer, meeting her husband, and the danger of living in Russia. As more of the past is told, the present begins to make more sense. Nina may have made a horrible mistake.

I enjoyed this very much. Incredibly engaging, the history and the detail of life in the Bolshoi Ballet was fascinating. I wanted to know what happened next. I was trying to figure out how Grigori was related to Nina, or thought he was related to Nina, and whose child he really was (I did figure it out, and was quite pleased with myself) and how everyone all fit together and where the jewels came from. The way the book was framed reminded me a lot of People of the Book, which I also really enjoyed. You have people in the present, and things are happening to them now, but then we also get to flash back to the past, and the story from the past is built upon throughout the whole book until the end when it all comes together. I thought Nina's past history and the story there was way more interesting then the story of Drew and Grigori in the present though.

However, THE WORST POSSIBLE THING HAPPENED. So there I am, totally into this book, and then, right at a pivotal point, when shit is about to go down THE ARC SKIPPED 30 PAGES! OMG! It went from 372 to 405. Three people died and a person was born in those pages! I believe I actually shrieked out loud when I realized what had happened. Totally distressing. I've written HarperCollins an email. I had to keep reading though, and was able to piece pretty much everything together, but I sure would like to read those 30 pages.

I was not satisfied with the ending. Why are you letting me down endings? It just..ended. And I thought, "What? That's it? But what happened?" Perhaps we were suppose to fill that in ourselves, but it kind of felt like the author was like, "I think I've done pretty well here. Nice job, me. THE END." Fie on that. I like to know what happens.

Aside from the unsatisfying ending though, I thought this was great. Russian Winter is available in September.

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