book review: Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay
The basics: Nina, A retired ballerina originally from Russia who now lives in Boston is selling her jewels to benefit the Boston Ballet. Soon an anonymous donor comes forward with a piece that appears to be from the same collection. Soon more questions arise and a historical mystery arises.
My thoughts: This novel started off quite slowly for me; it took me about fifty pages to get into the storyline and characters. Once I did, I was somewhat entranced with the different characters and storylines. Nina's story is told in two different times: the past and present. She's certainly the focus of the story, but she was my least favorite character. I was most drawn to Drew, the library-loving young woman who is researching and running the auction. I quickly found myself enjoying her scenes most and looking forward to them. As Drew researched and probed for answers to the book's mysteries, she acts as a stand-in for the reader.
Part of my trouble with modern Nina was her secretiveness. She held so much back from the reader and the other characters. While I enjoyed her historical story a bit more, I found it slow to develop. The narrative was revealed slowly, and ultimately it was too slow for me. I wanted Kalotay to tell me more. As a reader, I like to be in the know. If the characters hold the answers, it's not as compelling unless the writing is superb. I would stop short of calling Kalotay literary. I was never wowed by her writing. I didn't find myself writing down passages to marvel at later. Perhaps I've been spoiled by some excellent reads lately, but I longed for truths of humanity to be sprinkled in with the story.
The verdict: Despite an intriguing story and strong characters, the pace of the plot hindered my enjoyment, and the writing wasn't enough to compensate for a slow plot. There's the idea of a great novel, but I would have preferred it be shorter and paced differently. I think it would make an excellent film, as Kalotay's writing was rich with imagery.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 463 pages
Publication date: September 7, 2010 (it's in paperback now and also available on the Kindle)
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours
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