Jan 5th, 2011 by Marilyn
Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay
Nina thinks again, as she will from now on: My city looks best in winter, everything hidden under snow.
Russian Winteris Daphne Kalotay’s debut novel. It is a story about Nina Revskaya, a prima ballerina for the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. Nina defects to America in the 1950′s and is forced to face her past when she decides to auction her jewelry collection.
Book Description (from inside jacket)
When she decides to auction her remarkable jewelry collection, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Bolshoi Ballet, believes she has finally drawn a curtain on her past. Instead, the former ballerina finds herself overwhelmed by memories of her homeland and of the events, both glorious and heartbreaking, that changed the course of her life half a century ago.Continue reading...
It was in Russia that she discovered the magic of the theater; that she fell in love with the poet Viktor Elsin; that she and her dearest companions—Gersh, a brilliant composer, and the exquisite Vera, Nina’s closest friend—became victims of Stalinist aggression. And it was in Russia that a terrible discovery incited a deadly act of betrayal—and an ingenious escape that led Nina to the West and eventually to Boston.
Nina has kept her secrets for half a lifetime. But two people will not let the past rest: Drew Brooks, an inquisitive young associate at a Boston auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor of Russian who believes that a unique set of jewels may hold the key to his own ambiguous past. Together these unlikely partners begin to unravel a mystery surrounding a love letter, a poem, and a necklace of unknown provenance, setting in motion a series of revelations that will have life-altering consequences for them all.
Interweaving past and present, Moscow and New England, the backstage tumult of the dance world and the transformative power of art, Daphne Kalotay’s luminous first novel—a literary page-turner of the highest order—captures the uncertainty and terror of individuals powerless to withstand the forces of history, while affirming that even in times of great strife, the human spirit reaches for beauty and grace, forgiveness and transcendence.
Book Club Party Ideas for Russian Winter
Ballerinas are showered with flowers after their performance. Arrange one dozen classic red roses in a vase for a table centerpiece.
What to Wear
An anonomous person donates a Baltic ambernecklace to the auction that is believed to have belonged to Nina Revskaya. This necklace is the missing piece to Nina’s Baltic amber earrings and bracelet and triggers Nina to confront her past.
“Making her way across the wet asphalt of the square to the Bolshoi, Nina feels none of the usual excitement of such nights, though tonight she is to dance, again, for Stalin. This time it is a visitor from Laos he is entertaining; like all foreigners, the envoy wants to see Swan Lake. Melodramatic, show-offy Swan Lake. What did such things matter, frivolous fantasies, when all around horrible, inexplicable events were taking place? So long ago, the days when Nina found nothing more lovely than the swan-girls stretching forward to bow over their legs as they surround Odette…Now it just feels like a sham”. (Page 326)
This night Nina meets Stalin during the intermission, ‘”Butterfly,” he says slowly, “a most impressive performance. You make us proud of our great nation.”‘ The music of Swan Lakeis a perfect cd to play at your book club party for Russian Winter.
Book Club Menu for Russian Winter
Russian Eggs are served with caviar on top. My mother-in-law always started her Christmas Eve party with everyone having a Russian egg in one hand, a shot of chilled vodka in the other and then a toast was made. The intense flavor of the horseradish and the salty taste of the caviar deliver a surprising flavor. The shot of vodka is just an added bonus. A great way to get a party started!
Crudites (pronounced krue-dee-tay) were served to the bidders at the jewelry auction. These are raw vegetables cut into bite-sized strips and served with a dip. I served these crudites below with Lisa’s Vegetable Dip Recipe.
This tasty Barley Soup will warm the heart and soul during the cold Russian winter.
My mom has made these Russian Tea Cakes from Betty Crocker for as long as I can remember. These buttery melt-in-your-mouth cookie balls go by many names in recipe collections, including Mexican Wedding Cakes. They always contain finely chopped nuts and are twice rolled in powdered sugar. Serve these Russian Tea Cakes with a cup of coffee for a perfect ending to your book club party.
I found this recipe for Gozinakh (Walnut Honey Candy)on RusCuisine which features authentic Russian recipes.
Book Club Resources for Russian Winter
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 3.74 stars (731 reviews)|
|Amazon: 4.25 stars (60 reviews)|
|Barnes & Noble: 3.5 stars (37 reviews)|
|My Rating: 4 stars|
Purchase Russian Winter at your favorite bookseller
The Author and Awards
Visit the author at Daphne Kalotay.com
Russian Winter, published in 2010, is Daphne Kalotay’s first novel and was a finalist in the James Jones First Novel competition. She grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Vassar College. She then attended Boston University’s Creative Writing Program where she won the school’s Florence Engel Randall Fiction Prize and a Transatlantic Review Award from The Henfield Foundation. She remained at Boston University to complete a PhD in Modern and Contemporary Literature. She now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.
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