Friday, April 15, 2011

Winter Garden

Winter GardenKristin Hannah ISBN: 978-0-312-66315-5
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Source: Authors on the Web
Purchase Link: Winter Garden

Can a woman ever really know herself if she doesn’t know her mother?

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time—and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.

Winter Garden is a novel full of love, loss and renewal. Meredith and Nina have never known their mother to be warm and loving and have certainly never felt her approval. When their father dies, the girls are hopelessly lost. Slowly, they get to know their mother because of a promise to their dad. The more they being to uncover her deeply tragic past the more they understand her and in turn themselves. Here’s a breakdown of this novel.

Storyline: There are multiple storylines running in this novel. The first involves the Winston family as a whole and guides the reader through Meredith and Nina’s childhood memories, their father’s death and the aftermath of his death. The second is told in the form of a fairy tale. The fairy tale is told by Anya, the mom, as a way to tell Meredith and Nina about her past. The third and fourth stories follow both Meredith and Nina in their personal lives as they struggle to discover who they are, what they want and ultimately try to understand their mother. Ms. Hannah does a wonderful job of keeping these stories separate yet entwined together to make one masterful story.

Characters: The characters in this novel were not all together loveable. It definitely took time for me to warm up to them. Each of the women is cold and selfish in their own ways. Meredith drove me crazy. Despite this, the characters are well developed and are who they need to be for the story. This kept me reading but also kept me at bay, feeling no strong connection to each of them.

Interest level: Overall this story kept my interest steadily though parts of it were slow and repetitive in regards to the characters thoughts and feelings. Once Anya’s story begins to be revealed the book is hard to put down. Ms. Hannah even throws an incredible surprise twist into the end of the story, one I did not foresee. It is a haunting story from the beginning to the end. Emotions can be felt on all levels making this book quite the journey to read.

Pace: The story starts off slow yet steady. It doesn’t really pick up until Anya’s story begins. For a while I wondered when the core story of this novel would begin. While parts of this novel were slow, for the most part the pace was steady though not fast by any means.

Writing Style: I enjoyed the writing style of this novel for the most part. The part that threw me off and didn’t feel quite right was when Anya started to tell her story. It started off in the same font and type and then would change after an introductory period of the story and then changes to italics and a separate section as I thought it should have been from the start.

Overall: This was a charming and emotionally harrowing story. It brings a lot of questions to the mind of the reader and would be great for book clubs. I enjoyed the novel and love the cover art! I would recommend it. There are also some wonderful recopies included in the back of the novel. The recipes are seen throughout the story and will make you hungry! I will definitely be trying them.  For those of you who care about half stars, I have to confess I had a hard time deciding between 3.5 and 4 pillows on this one.  I went with 4 because it is not a 3!  I didn't want anyone to round down, the novel doesn't deserve that.


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