What happens when two thirtysomething siblings relive the summer reading programs of their youth in an all-out battle of the books? The race is on as they read by the rules and keep tally on their logs to see who will be the ultimate reader by Labor Day 2010.

August 16, 2010

Winter Garden, Kristin Hannah

"Winter Garden" is an odd choice for a summer read, but I grabbed it out of my mother's library bag on the strength of previous books by Kristin Hannah. As it turned out, I read much of the book at night during a rain storm, while my children had nightmares and wandered from bed to bed. That setting was a good match for the story.

Hannah is from that large genre of women who write of the complex relationships between women, especially within families. The men serve to move the story forward, but it's the many roles of women-- wife, mother, sister, daughter, female, girlfriend, friend, colleague, professional-- that Hannah explores in each novel. Usually, the story is pretty linear, but in "Winter Garden" she covers 60 years of relationships, jumping back and forth from time and place to tell the story of Anya, a Russian immigrant and distant mother to adult daughters Meredith and Nina. Hannah uses the first half of the book to tediously lay the groundwork for the real story in the second half: Anya's unspoken life in Leningrad during the era of Stalin. Hannah doesn't sugarcoat Anya's experiences, forcing the reader to slowly move through the horrors and sadness of wartime to present day. As a somewhat prize to her readers who stuck with the nearly 400 page novel, Hannah leaves us with a story on the upswing, an unexpectedly happyish (and unrealistic) ending to a sad, sad (too true) tale.

(It wouldn't surprise me if this book gets optioned and we see it in theatres in 2013. I predict that the music of Celine Dion will play a major role in the film. It's Titanic, set in snowy Russia. Our father will buy the soundtrack and Brendan will poke fun, then secretly upload the files.)

1 comment:

  1. Celine Dion? It's not 1997. Maybe they can get Mclachlan out of retirement (I don't think Lilith Fair did too well this year; she might need the money).