Monday, November 29, 2021

Russia Again

30 this morning. It's been a cold week, no precipitation the last couple days. Beautiful sunsets.

This evening when I got home I made some hot chocolate and dove right into my current reading, Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. This book neatly dovetailed with the one I finished recently, A Gentleman in Moscow. I have to admit Winter Garden was slow going at first. I wasn't liking two of the main characters--they felt forced and unnatural, almost caricatures of women who can do all these phenomenal things, are thin, run miles every day, venture to all corners of the earth, work seemingly endless hours and still look beautiful, have hot men in love with them, etc. I don't know about you, but I haven't run into many--if any--women like that in my 70 years of living. Idealized, you bet. Then there were whole paragraphs that dwelt so heavily on words describing cold that I felt like I was being beaten over the head with it, as if the author wanted to see how many possible ways there were to describe coldness. 

Eventually, though, the story began to heat up, figuratively speaking. While the two sisters in the tale never felt real to me, the story within in the story was mesmerizing. This inner story focused on life in Soviet Russia both before and during World War II. And I found myself impatient to get back to the book when I had to do mundane things like sleep, go to work--I just wanted to find out how this strange, beautiful tale would end. I wasn't disappointed. The detail and descriptions of Leningrad during the siege were exceptional, a testament to the depth of research the author must have done to create this haunting story.

 I have always been intrigued with Russian history, so much so that I took two semesters of it in college. And have read many of the old Russian classics, some of them several times over. I will warn you, if you should read Winter Garden, expect to be in tears several times as the story unfolds. But read to the end and the reward will be more than worth the journey. This one will go on the shelf, to be read again. Even if I still didn't really like those two sisters in the end.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


  1. Sue, it's so coincidental--I'm reading a book by Kristen Hannah right now, too--it's about the Dust Bowl and the people who lived during it. It's called the Four Winds and when I'm finished, I'll trade books with you. It's uncanny how you described her writing--it's the same with this book, but it's still one I want to keep reading despite the work I should be doing. And even more coincidental--I just finished War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. That was a looooonnnnnnggggg read!! Again, though, it was about Russia and Napoleon's attempt to take it over. Sisters through and through!!

  2. Wow, Judy, you're right--we're so alike sometimes it's uncanny. I think I've read War and Peace 4 or 5 times--usually in summer so I can freeze when it's hot outside, LOL. It's been a long while since I read it, but still one of my favorite stories. I would love to trade books, and I'll send along A Gentleman in Moscow too. It's a great read, and fits well with this one and with War and Peace.

  3. I do love Kristin Hannah but have not read the Winter Garden or Four Winds. I'm on the list for Four Winds at our library. I have the Great Alone but it is in my 'to be read' pile:) But don't you just love when you get that absorbed in a good book?


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