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Russian Winter: A Novel

Russian Winter: A Novel

3.8 95
by Daphne Kalotay

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A mysterious jewel holds the key to a life-changing secret, in this breathtaking tale of love and art, betrayal and redemption.

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


A mysterious jewel holds the key to a life-changing secret, in this breathtaking tale of love and art, betrayal and redemption.

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.

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.

Editorial Reviews

USA Today
“An exceptional debut novel. . . . Delving into Nina’s life with the Bolshoi Ballet, her life among the Soviet Union’s artist community and her escape from the Stalinist regime add glamour and historical flavor to this novel of secrets, intrigue and wonderfully described priceless gems.”
Boston Globe
“With sure and suspenseful artistry, Daphne Kalotay intersperses the unfortunate and tortuous histories of Nina, Elsin, and their artist friends with new discoveries and disclosures. The several stories draw together in a conclusion that is surprising, fitting, and satisfying.”
Good Housekeeping
“Part romance, part mystery, this elegant debut captures the danger—and refuge—of love in Stalin’s era.”
O magazine
“This tale of a Russian ballerina who defected to Boston is a history lesson inside an evocative novel about art and betrayal.”
Matthew Pearl
“Daphne Kalotay captivates in a soaring debut novel. An elegant, compelling puzzle of family, memory and solitude that brings to life modern-day Boston and postwar Russia through a profound love story. Graceful, moving and unexpected.”
Jenna Blum
“Tender, passionate, and moving, Daphne Kalotay’s debut novel about ballet, jewels, love and betrayal is also a delicious form of time travel.I loved it.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“RUSSIAN WINTER. . . is engaging and affecting. It could well be the debut novel of the year.”
“Kalotay has created appealing, well-rounded characters in well-researched settings. . . . This is a briskly paced, fresh, and engaging first novel dealing with the pain of loss and the power of love.”
Washington Post Book World
“[A] magnificent tale of love, loss, betrayal and redemption. . . . The emotional center of the book holds everything together. . . . [A] final riptide of revelations leaves the reader profoundly moved.”
“Kalotay has brought to life hidden worlds with the verve of an expertly executed tour jeté.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Daphne Kalotay is the author of the award-winning novel Russian Winter, which has been published in twenty languages, and the fiction collection Calamity and Other Stories. She has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo, and has taught at Boston University, Skidmore College, Grub Street, and Middlebury College. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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Russian Winter 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 95 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The cover of Russian Winter beguiled me, but did not answer the many questions that hammered at my brain as Nina's story unfolded. I paid diligent attention to the carefully spun-out clues in the novel and was spellbound until the end. Sometimes we savor a book-read a bit, then put it away until tomorrow so that it may be pondered. Not so with Russian Winter. I was swept away and contentedly disconnected from the rest of my life for the hours I spent within its pages. I reveled in author Daphne Kalotay's use of language. She juxtaposes present day Boston with post WW II Soviet Union where artists struggle with their private turmoil and fears behind the iron curtain. Her flashbacks are expertly cast in the present tense. So much of what is beautiful in this world-ballet, poetry, music, love, creative expression, hope-is intertwined with betrayal, fear, loss, poor health. Detailed descriptions of the jewelry to be auctioned are uniquely placed between chapter headings. Kalotay has a way of bringing simple images to life with phrases like "a squadron of hairpins." "Dancers must remember everything." Retired ballerina Nina Rebskaya, who has defected to the United States and seeks to sell her jewel collection to benefit the Boston ballet, suffers such a fate. Nina, who visualized the optimum performance of the next step in her choreography as she felt the floor beneath her feet, becomes the retired benefactress, body rigid and wheelchair-bound, tracing the lines of the past in her memories. The career of a ballerina is ephemeral but the value of a gemstone endures. Intrigue seduces. Art is transforming. Ponder all of this in the captivating novel, Russian Winter.
TheCrowdedLeaf More than 1 year ago
I've always enjoyed novels set in Russia. Something about the tragic mystery of the Romanov's, the colorful spiraling St. Basil Cathedral towers, and the romance of softly falling snow and fur muffs. Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay is all those beautiful sensations rolled into one, with the fabulous addition of ballerinas and antique jewels. Alternating between present day Boston and 1950s Russia, Russian Winter is the story of once famous ballerina, Nina Revskaya, and the trials she endured while a young woman in a cold country who wants nothing more than to dance. Now old and alone, Nina has decided to auction off her famous jewels to benefit the Boston Ballet Foundation. The provenance of a particular set of amber jewelry, and the mysterious donator who contributes a matching amber necklace, set the scene for a literary mystery going back to the turmoil of Stalinist Russia, a time of intense speculation and fear. Daphne Kalotay submerges the reader in the beauty of the ballet, the mystery of Russia, and the pain and trials of an aging woman with a heartbreaking tale to tell. Nina is cold and distant in her old age, but she wasn't always that way and Kalotay shows us her younger years by beautifully transitioning back in time. Russian Winter is much like the ballerinas in the story; enigmatic and alluring. Perfect for the coming cool weather, it's deliciously long and will catch you from the start with a hint of mystery, a hint of romance, and a determined and easily flowing plot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A friend lent me a copy of this book to read, and I was sure from the get-go this would not be a very interesting book, shame on me, No one should judge a book by its cover... This story pulled me in, the characters are very rich and the authors voice has a perfect tempo, I was utterly astonished that this book was a debut, something I didn't know while reading the book. I highly recommend this book for anyone, not just women, but anyone that is looking for a book to escape in.
Fozzie More than 1 year ago
This was an outstanding book. It is told in alternating narratives taking place in post World War II Russia and Boston within the last 10 years. Mysteries are immediately revealed in the book, then unraveled during the narrative. The book is about love, loyalty, and society, set against a backdrop of ballet and jewelry --- very unique!
AAR More than 1 year ago
RUSSIAN WINTER by Daphne Kalotay is an interesting historical set in present day Boston and 1950 Russia. It is well written with depth,details, twists and turns. It has mystery, tragedy, heart break, secrets, terror of war, mystery of Russia, ballerinas, a touch of romance, history, and the pain and trials of an aging woman. It interwines the past with the present in detail. The characters are rich, determined, and the plot flows easily. It shows the transformation of a yound hopeful Nina into the frustrated and resigned elder Nina. If you enjoy a hint of mystery, a hint of romance, and a lot of drams this is the book for you. This book was received from Good Reads for review and details can be found at Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers and My Book Addiction and More.
SAHARATEA More than 1 year ago
Russian Winter is an engrossing fiction novel from Daphne Kalotay that combines personal history with notorious events in human history. Flashbacks from Stalin-era Russia combine with the modern life of a Russian defector, Nina Revskaya, once famous as a Bolshoi ballerina. As she enters her final years, she decides to have a Sotheby's-style auction house sell her gems...purportedly to donate the funds to the Arts. However, it soon becomes clear that she has more personal reasons to divest of the jewelry-some of the pieces harbor memories that are too painful to hold on to. In the meantime, Drew, the auction house assistant, is charged with the task of determining the provenance of the pieces. A mystery arises as a new pendant is anonymously donated...one that would appear to be linked with Nina's set. The significance is clear: there's more to the story than Nina is willing to reveal. And it is the verification of the jewels history that becomes a story of assumptions and lies, and the betrayals that come as a result from them. The story was well paced, and plot twists developed that kept the mystery going. I also found the in-depth portrayal of the auction house's job of verifying historical jewelry fascinating. However, I had a few issues with the substance of the novel overall. One, I got the impression almost that a formula was being followed...'reveal this much detail at a time, then hold back, move on, and sprinkle foreshadowing liberally'. It worked, but once completed, the novel felt a bit manipulated. Another thing was I think the author wanted to show two powerful, independent women in action; and yet, both women (Drew and Nina) lacked warmth and were really kind of boring. The men in the story-Grigori and Viktor-were far more interesting and vibrant to read about. The women seemed passive in comparison. The flashbacks of Russia were of the most basic historical components: poets, vodka, intellectual suppression, mysterious arrests, the ballet, corruption, and poverty. In other words, there was nothing new added that dipped beneath a mere surface knowledge of "Russia 101." I would have loved if the book could have added historical details that would have revealed more complexity to the characters, in the way Vasily Grossman's Everything Flows uncovered a pain that explained its character's actions with more humanity. And yet, to someone unfamiliar with Russian history, they might find it a good introduction to the unique events of the region's history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and beautiful, Kalotay really gave insight into Soviet Russia as well as the life of a prima ballerina. I loved the book, it is now definetly a favorite.
JGarrison More than 1 year ago
A wonderfully written story, weaved with wonderfully thorough research of Soviet Russia in the aftermath of World War II. I was slightly disappointed by the ending, in that it sort of became "rushed," which seemed almost out of place with how long it took to get to that ending. But regardless, I enjoyed the story and the beautiful writing.
OHBeth More than 1 year ago
Flashbacks aren't easy to do, but Kalotay has managed to use them very effectively in a story of a Russian ballerina from childhood to old age. In the past, the main character was a Bolshoi ballet dancer, one of the privileged few in Stalinist Russia, but nevertheless well acquainted with the horrors of that time. In the present, she is selling off her large and valuable jewel collection through an auction house in Boston. There are some mysterious letters, disappearances, romance in the past and the present, and even a walk-on by Josef Stalin himself. I really enjoyed the book and hope to see more from this talented author.
llamamia More than 1 year ago
In Kalotay's "Russian Winter" you can almost feel the cold of Moscow & the danger of the Stalin Regime, put forth in lyrical prose. I enjoyed the comparison of the beauty of white winter snow with the shabbiness of Russia & the escape from downtrodden lives into the lovely art of the ballet. And the jewelry auction was a clever vehicle to bring clues to the the puzzle of the mystery surrounding the central characters. Kalotay artfully portrays the distinct voice of the young hopeful Nina with the frustration & resignation of the elder Nina. Finally, the analytical interpretation of events that form & change ones' life is brought out beautifully in this complex novel. Thoroughly enjoyable!
VandeViere18 More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books of all time; spell binding from begining to end, rich characters, and timeless jewels, beautifully woven with the traditions of Imperial Russia and the fear that surrounded the Soviet Union.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put it down. So grateful to have discovered a well written, beautifully crafted story with characters that I grew to like. Looking forward to reading more from daphne
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And mabe a few sidelines does not akways work too well might have done better with one story line
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read - my favorite historical fiction genre and historical Russia no less! Intriguing story, but disappointed in the ending. I wish the end of the story had been flushed out and shared more. Regardless, very disappointed in the character of Nina.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended by a friend who read it for a book club. If you just like a good story without a particular genre, I can highly recommend this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a terrific read! It's a sociological thriller with lots of great detail on Russian ballet, history, jewelry and the ways of auction houses.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago