Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Lost Season of Love and Snow - if you like "synthetic" Russia ...

Greetings, commies and lovers of Russian literature.

I normally review books that I have enjoyed, but sometimes I post a review for a novel that fell short of my expectations, or rather, lived up to my worst fears. The Lost Season of Love and Snow is one of those. They say, don't judge a book by the author's head shot. I tried that. Nope. Jennifer Laam has the appearance of someone who should be writing cook books or light romance novels. I do not advise her biting into Russian history. Of course, it's not my right to tell any author what to write. In her bio she states that she's always had a fascination with Russian culture. And that's just what it is - flighty fascination. Alas, this is the kind of fluff St. Martin has been publishing. 

At the beguiling age of sixteen, Natalya Goncharova is stunningly beautiful and intellectually curious. At her first public ball during the Christmas of 1828, she attracts the romantic attention of Russia’s most lauded rebel poet: Alexander Pushkin. Finding herself deeply attracted to Alexander’s intensity and joie de vivre, Natalya is swept up in a courtship and then a marriage full of passion but also destructive jealousies. When vicious court gossip leads Alexander to defend his honor as well as Natalya’s in a duel, he tragically succumbs to his injuries. Natalya finds herself reviled for her perceived role in his death. In her striking new novel, The Lost Season of Love and Snow, Jennifer Laam helps bring Natalya’s side of the story to life with vivid imagination—the compelling tale of her inner struggle to create a fulfilling life despite the dangerous intrigues of a glamorous imperial Court and that of her greatest love.

My thoughts:
I was determined to be open-minded about this book and give it a chance (which in my case meant pretending that I was Russian and have read Pushkin in the original and several of his biographies). Somehow I knew from the first page that the book was going to make me roll my eyes and cringe more than once. As a reader, you find yourself in a synthetic, cardboard Russia. Of course, if you have no personal connection to that country, you would not know the real thing from a "lab created" knock off. Not that I expected the author to create an authentic ambiance. Let's talk about the heroine, Natalie. For how much she tries to present herself as someone who does not only care about dresses and material comforts, she spends a great deal of time focusing on the cosmetic and decorative details, which only confirms her to be a superficial ditz. Or maybe it's the author's fondness for adjectives. Her diction is very dense, because it's filled to various references to colors, scents, textures. A few times I choked on a sentence. I am not sure if the purpose of this novel was to exonerate Natalie or to vilify her. Laam's heroine comes across as someone who has no sense of humor. You don't get a sense for who she really is a person. In terms of her sexuality, she is a mixture of a giddy fan girl and a spinster. Her timid dabbling in what a Western woman would call feminism and her feeble squeaks "I am not just a pretty face, you know" are just pathetic. Two stars. B- for effort. 

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