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A Reader of Fictions: From Russia With Love - Matt Monro

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From Russia With Love - Matt Monro

Russian Winter

Author: Daphne Kalotay
Genre: historical fiction, literary
Pages: 466
ARC Obtained From: HarperCollins booth at ALA 2010

Brief Summary:
This lush, literary novel weaves the past and present together seamlessly. Nina Revskaya, once a star ballerina in the Soviet Union's Bolshoi Ballet, is old now, eighty, her body wracked with pain and haunted by painful memories. When a professor, a young fifty, sends her yet another letter, an overture in hoped that she will answer his questions about her past, she decides to auction off all of her jewels. By divesting herself of these possessions, she hopes to free herself from the memories they bring with them, particularly the amber bracelet and earrings. The professor adds what may be a matching necklace to the set, drawing attention to the mysterious origin of these jewels. Nina, Drew Brooks, who works with the auction house, and Grigori Salodin, the professor, all confront their pasts while searching for the truth behind the amber jewelry suite.

My own skills lack to sum up this novel in the way that it deserves. This is one of the most beautifully written books I have read in a while. The story was lovely in its simplicity, every description dripping with meaning without being overly sentimental or pedantic. The whole way through I marveled at the language. Despite its length, the book moved at a swift pace. The plot was not one of action, but still I hardly wanted to put the book down. This is masterful writing.

The portrayal of Nina's past in Soviet Russia was fantastic. I have studied the Soviet Union quite a bit, particularly through the writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Kalotay did a good job portraying the way Soviet citizens likely felt about their lives. She shows the reverence for Stalin, even in the worst times. Never once does Nina see him as anything but a savior; the problems come from others and he does not know. Shocking though that may be, anything else would probably have been inaccurate. The faith that she had in the country and the small things that lead her to question that are done well. Kalotay confronts rough issues with subtlety, with no overarching need to make her point clear by bashing you over the head with it.

I recommend this one extremely highly (in case that wasn't clear from the above). Do yourself a favor and read this.

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