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I really enjoyed this book. Daphne has created a well-written tale about life, loss, love, betrayal and determination, all whilst maintaining a very strong plot line. The story switches effortlessly between Boston in the present day, and a post- World War 2 Russia, which drew me straight in and kept me there until I had finished this brilliant story.

Nina was a wonderful character, I very much enjoyed reading about her time as a ballet dancer, how she started out when she was a young girl and worked her way up, becoming famous and dancing being her passion in life. I also loved reading about Nina and Victor, and their love for each other. At the same time, there is a lot of fear and dangerous situations happening around them in their country, and that only adds to the story and makes it more gripping. In present day Boston Nina is a graceful elderly woman, and as the story unfolds, Nina revisits her past and we learn more of the secrets that have been buried for many years.

In the story we also meet Grigori, a professor in present day Boston who owns an amber necklace, seeming rather similar to that of Nina's collection, with several pieces of jewellery matching the necklace. This was a very intriguing storyline and I was very keen to read on to see where Grigori slotted in to the story, and what became of the jewellery.

Although both the present day Boston and Russia in the past were both fantastic settings, my heart lie with Russia. It was so compelling to read about and I looked forward to being transported back in time for more information which would uncover another piece of the puzzle.

Russian Winter is a truly beautiful story, very captivating and I would definitely recommend it.
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on 18 February 2012
The blurb on the back:
"When Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Bolshoi Ballet, decides to auction her jewellery collection she believes she has finally drawn a curtain on her past. Instead she is overwhelmed by memories of her life a half-century before.
It was in Russia that she fell in love - and where, spurred by Stalinist aggression, a terrible discovery led to a deadly act of betrayal.
Now living in 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 the auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor who believes the jewels may hold the key to his past. Together these unlikely partners unravel a literary mystery whose answers hold life-altering consequences for them all."

This is a fascinating story. The parts of the narrative set in 1950's Moscow had me enthralled. On the service it is just a story about ballet, love and jealousy. It is almost possible for the reader to forget that the ballet and the meeting of two lovers is taking place in an atmosphere of suspicion and constant danger.
And that makes sense, because people living under such circumstances do have jobs they are passionate about, do fall in love and feel all the emotions connected to sharing your life with someone else. They wouldn't constantly think about the political system under which they happen to be living, they would mostly just try to get on with life and be as happy as they could possibly be.
But between the lines the suppression of people, the fear those people live with and the constant vigilance they had to keep up just to avoid being arrested and exiled are evident.
Once the reader stops to think about it, it becomes clear that the setting and the political situation at the time are as much a character and driving force in this story as the humans involved in the story.

The Bolshoi Ballet made for a very interesting setting, even for me who doesn't know a lot about and isn't very interested in ballet. With Nina Revskaya the reader initially concentrates on dance and love only to slowly discover and recognise the evil and duplicity of Stalin's regime. And through Nina it is possible for the reader to understand why and how a person would be so caught up in their passion that the knowledge of that evil would remain in the background most of the time.

I wasn't as impressed with the modern day part of the story. It is good, and it provides a great handle for unravelling what exactly happened in the past, and why Nina has stayed silent about that past for so long. The Boston background however, just didn't provide the same tension or level of interest that Stalin's Moscow gave.
While Nina and her Victor had me rooting for them from the moment they met, even though it is clear that there won't be a happy ending, I just didn't care as much about Grigori and Drew. The magic attraction I could feel between the dancer and her poet wasn't quite there for the professor and his auctioneer.

Overall though, I really enjoyed this book. With Drew and Grigori I wanted to find out what exactly had happened and why. And I was glad and impressed that, although I had a good bit of the answers figured out before the end of the book, it didn't work out quite as I had suspected.
I think this is a very impressive debut novel by an author I will be keeping an eye on from now on.
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on 15 February 2012
If I'm honest this is not normally the type of book I read but I'd set myself several book resolutions this year, one of which was to read books/genres that I would not normally read.

The book tells the story of Nina, alternating between an elderly Nina now living in Boston and a young Nina living and dancing at the Bolshoi ballet in Moscow.

Nina decides to sell her jewellery collection at auction and when a matching necklace to one of the sets is added by a third party it is clear that there must be a connection. However, Nina denies all knowledge but auction associate Drew is sure that there is and is determined to find out what the mystery is.

I found this book hard going at times but overall it was a lot better than I was expecting although not sure I'd reach for this style of book again in the near future.
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VINE VOICEon 19 August 2011
Nina Revskaya was a prima ballerina with the Bolshoi during the early 50s in Stalinist Soviet Union. She married a poet and their friends were musicians, dancers and poets who were often reckless with their comments despite being watched by the Authorities. For reasons that I won't divulge, Nina defects to the west and ends up living in Boston, USA, wheelchair bound after years of dancing has taken a toll on her body (hardly surprising when you see what strenuous training and performance schedules she endured). She is selling her jewels to pay for a Ballet School and the present day is cleverly interwoven as each Lot of Nina's jewels tells a story which flashes back to her days in Russia.

The story surrounding her years as a dancer are beautifully depicted and Daphne Kalotay describes some performances of the ballet as though you were in the audience. The chapters leading to her defection are tense but I wasn't quite so thrilled about the present day story as I felt it slowed the book down. However I did enjoy this book and it gave a wonderful insight into the world of the Russian ballet.
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on 17 March 2013
I have to say this really is a gorgeous book and exactly the sort of thing I like. It's about three people all living in present-day Boston: Nina a ballet dancer who defected from Stalin's Russia who has decided to auction off her stunning collection of jewellery; Drew, the young representative of the auction house handling the sale, and Grigori, an academic who's life work has been the translation of the poems of Viktor Elsin, the husband Nina left behind in Moscow and who did not survive the Stalinist terror. But if Nina can rid herself of the jewels, the act of doing so sirs up searing memories. Grigori too, an adopted child still mourning the death of his wife, has never come to terms with the mystery of his Russian birth parents and the fact that Nina has always refused to acknowledge any connection to him. Through all three characters the story of Nina and her life with the Bolshoi Ballet under Stalin unfolds at just the right pace until a whole skein of false assumptions is unravelled and a new set of connections revealed.

What do I like about it? The narrative, carried entirely by the main characters, is taught, but absorbing rather than gripping, allowing us plenty of time to see the lives of other characters like Grigori's friend, the dissident poet Zoltan, Nina's fellow dancer Polina who is prey to constant anxiety and fear, or Viktor's aristocrat mother (a kind of white Russian Miss Haversham) whom he has to hide behind a plywood wall. The story has many layers but everything is germane to the theme of how love and loyalty are compromised under a reign of terror. And by the end I knew so much more about Stalinist Russia, the life of a ballerina and even amber jewellery.

In many ways this is a conventional novel, but in a good way. It delivers in all it sets out to do and I found it entirely satisfying. I do think the title and cover are rather bland and don't invite curiosity. I hope this book gets the attention it deserves.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 December 2011
When aging ballerina Nina Revskaya decides to auction her jewellery to raise funds for the Boston Ballet Foundation, she is ill prepared for the reawakening memories of her days as a prima ballerina with the Bolshoi ballet in Stalinist Russia. With the help of a young auction coordinator, the auction seems likely to be popular and when an unexpected jewellery item shows up in the auction rooms, the interest in Nina's past life escalates.
After a rather slow start this novel develops into a really good read. Accurately descriptive of the oppression and aggression of Stalinist Russia, the way of life at this time in history is expertly captured. Running alongside the historical element is a modern day story which involves the young auctioneer and a man who holds the key to some of the secrets from Nina's past life. Of the two story strands I found the description of the ballet world utterly fascinating, with a realism that can only come from someone who understands the world of dance.
Overall I thought this was a really good book, and once the story developed it kept my attention until the end.
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on 5 November 2014
This is an odd book to review.At times it felt too long,there was much written about ballet and the various steps that ballerinas go through,though somehow all of the detail seemed to fit into the whole story and made sense. It is a long book-nearly 500 pages-and there are a lot of musings by Nina, Drew and Grigori, but this does add to the whole, and makes it an entertaining read. The research seems to have been done well,and although some reviewers knock the ending I thought it was alright,and did not particularly surprise me.
Good holiday read,and good insight into Stalin's last years. Shows the true force of communism, and its isolation from the rest of the world,especially the Berlin episode.
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on 22 May 2013
Truly an excellent novel through the first three quarters of the book. Unfortunately from the many possible finals the writer chooses a romantic end which nearly destroys all the good of the first part of the book. In any case wirth reading it - if you stop at three quarters of the book you do not loose much. For the writer a wasted opportunity to write a truly great book.
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on 22 December 2013
I really enjoyed this novel. The intertwining of the old world and the new was most engaging. I particularly liked the detail of the human interest aspect of life in post-war USSR.

I will recommend it to my friends - we read it in our book group, and to my daughters.
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on 6 October 2011
This book is both entertaining and absorbing. The characters are well written. There is plenty of action, drama and intrigue. The author brings the world of the Russian Ballet, behind the iron curtin, to life.

Jennifer K. Lafferty
Author of Offbeat Love Stories and More
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