Author: Daphne Kalotay
Star Verdict: **** (out of 5)
When Drew Brooks is assigned to manage the auction of elderly Nina Revskaya’s jewelry collection, she is sure the jewels must hold stories of the woman’s past as a prima ballerina in Soviet Russia. Nina wants to be rid of both the jewels and the memories, but finds herself flooded with recollections of the life she and her poet husband, their composer friend, and her fellow ballerinas lived under Stalin’s oppression. Russian history professor Grigori has an amber pendant and a love letter that he believes are clues to his unknown family history, a history he believes includes Nina. When Nina refuses to see him, he decides to end his search for his past and donate the pendant to the auction, but Drew promises to try to help him discover its history. Nina, however, has no desire to reveal the secrets that Drew and Grigori are trying to uncover.
I was drawn to this book because of my fascination with all things Russian; plus, what girly girl could resist the combination of ballet, jewelry, and history? This was a beautifully written book with a great deal of atmosphere and texture. The portrayal of life in Russia post WWII was fascinating and tragic, and I enjoyed the details of the life of a star ballerina in the famous Bolshoi ballet troupe. The novel explores the exploitation and suppression of art and beauty under communism, as well as the sad personal results of mistrust, miscommunication, and jealously in the characters’ lives.
Negative Elements: This is a secular book, and I did not always agree with the author or characters’ moral standard. There is one sex scene that is not quite graphic but pushed the limit.