Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Kalotay makes a powerful debut with a novel about a Soviet-era prima ballerina, now retired and living in Boston, who confronts her past as she puts up for auction the jewelry she took with her when she left her husband and defected. Nina 'The Butterfly' Revskaya, 79, reveals little about the past to curious auction house representative Drew Brooks as he peruses her cache of exquisite jewelry. Nina likewise rebuffs inquiries from foreign language professor Grigori Solodin, who has translated the works of Nina's poet husband and who offers an additional item for auction: the amber necklace he inherited from the parents he never knew. In extended flashbacks, Nina recalls intimate moments and misunderstandings with her husband, happy and disturbing times with his Jewish composer best friend, and encounters with her own childhood friend. Meanwhile, Drew and Grigori delve into the jewelry's provenance, hoping to learn as much about the jewels as their own pasts. While the Soviet-era romance can lean too much on melodrama, Kalotay turns out a mostly entrancing story thanks to a skillful depiction of artistic life behind the Iron Curtain and intriguing glimpses into auction house operations. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
“A complex story that, in the end, boils down to the simplest of elements: love, fear, disappointment and loss. An auspicious first novel, elegantly written and without a false note.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“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.” Booklist
“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.” Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us
“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.” Matthew Pearl, New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club
“Kalotay writes about her characters — artists struggling to dream and survive within the constraints of the Stalinist regime — with sensitivity, humor and wisdom. I believed in these characters and cared about their fates.... A captivating and entertaining read.” Oscar Hijuelos, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
"Russian Winter is a marvel that had me canceling appointments and staying up half the night, as it swept me into a world of intrigue, poetry, and romance. Set against the perfection of ballet, the hardships of life in the Soviet Union after World War II, and the anguish of families lost and found, Russian Winter reminds me of why I love to read fiction." Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light and A Fierce Radiance
"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." Mathew Pearl, New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club
“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.”
—Matthew Pearl, New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club
In Russian Winter, the beautiful debut novel by critically acclaimed writer Daphne Kalotay, a famed ballerinas jewelry auction in Boston reveals long-held secrets of love and family, friendship and rivalry, harkening back to Stalinist Russia. Called “tender, passionate, and moving” by Jenna Blum, the New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us, Russian Winter is a perfect choice for fans of the novels of Debra Dean (The Madonnas of Leningrad), Ann Patchett (Bel Canto), and Ian McEwan (Atonement).
A Russian émigré learns that she can succeed at anything as long as she can corral all the demons from her past.
“Mordantly funny, deliciously human, Rubins tale of a self-possessed survivor brings zest to the literature of immigration and adaptation.” -Booklist
When Stalina Folskaya flees her native Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, she sets out for America with her dreams—and her painful past—firmly in tow. A trained chemist in Russia but disillusioned by her prospects in the United States, she becomes a maid at the Liberty, a “short-stay” motel on the outskirts of Hartford, Connecticut. Even here, gutsy Stalina sees opportunity, convincing the owner to let her transform the motel into a fantasy destination. Business skyrockets and the American dream is within her sights, but she cannot escape the ghosts she left behind in St. Petersburg. Obsessed with avenging her family while also longing for a new life, Stalina must choose between the obligations of the past and her hopes for the future.
“[Rubin] respects the often harrowing histories of her Russian characters and, most importantly, is true to human nature, to our weaknesses and superstitions, to the strengths and frailties of our friendships, and to the baggage of the past that we bring with us no matter where we go.”—Daphne Kalotay, author of Russian Winter
About the Author
Daphne Kalotay is the author of the novel Russian Winter, which won the Writers' League of Texas Fiction Award and has been published in twenty languages, and the fiction collection Calamity and Other Stories, which was short-listed for the Story Prize. A MacDowell fellow, Daphne holds a PhD in modern and contemporary literature and an MA in creative writing, both from Boston University, and has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, Yaddo, and the Bogliasco Foundation. She has taught literature and creative writing at Boston University, Skidmore College, Middlebury College, and Grub Street. Copresident of the Boston chapter of the Women's National Book Association, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.