BOOK TITLE: The Lost Season of Love and Snow
BOOK AUTHOR: Jennifer Laam
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Griffin |
January 2nd 2018
GENRES: Historical Fiction
CHECK IT OUT AT: Goodreads
BUY IT: Buy on Amazon
The unforgettable story of Alexander Pushkin’s beautiful wife, Natalya, a woman much admired at Court, and how she became reviled as the villain of St. Petersburg.
At the age of sixteen, Natalya Goncharova is stunningly beautiful and intellectually curious. But while she finds joy in French translations and a history of Russian poetry, her family is more concerned with her marriage prospects. It is only fitting that during the Christmas of 1828 at her first public ball in her hometown of Moscow she attracts the romantic attention of Russia’s most lauded rebel poet: Alexander Pushkin.
Enchanted at first sight, Natalya is already a devoted reader of Alexander’s serialized novel in verse, Evgeny Onegin. The most recently published chapter ends in a duel, and she is dying to learn what happens next. Finding herself deeply attracted to Alexander’s intensity and joie de vivre, Natalya hopes to see him again as soon as possible.
What follows is a courtship and later marriage full of equal parts passion and domestic bliss but also destructive jealousies. When vicious court gossip leads to Alexander dying from injuries earned defending his honor as well as Natalya’s in a duel, Natalya finds herself reviled for her alleged role in his death.
With beautiful writing and understanding, Jennifer Laam, and her compelling new novel, The Lost Season of Love and Snow, help Natalya tell her side of the story—the story of her greatest love and her inner struggle to create a fulfilling life despite the dangerous intrigues of a glamorous imperial Court.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Historical fiction. It gets me every time.
When I start an historical fiction novel, I’m never sure I’m going to like it. I’m ready to give it up at the first sign of boredom, so sure that creating fiction out of already engaging historical facts is unnecessary.
And then my heart gets involved. I’m sucked into the fable created from the truths. The combination of fact and fiction weaves a wonderful story, entwining romance with hard truths, bringing the past to life with wonderfully imagined stories of what could have happened.
Case in point: The Lost Season of Love and Snow.
Because I don’t know much Russian history, I really wasn’t sure about this book. But I love Alexander Pushkin as a writer, so I was intrigued.
The Lost Season of Love and Snow skillfully pulls readers into the mind and heart of Pushkin’s young wife, Natalya, a woman first adored for her beauty and then forgotten by history. Laam brings Natalya to life in this beautiful story, creating a strong, intelligent woman deeply in love with her husband, but also caught up in the intrigue of court life in Imperial Russia.
Natalya and Alexander (Pushkin)’s love story pulled me in, but it was the passion and jealousies within their marriage that kept me interested. In a different time, Natalya could have been a different woman, but she’s stuck in an era when women were supposed to be lovely, compelling, and interesting without the benefit of education. She and Alexander are both caught up in the machinations of court life, caught up in flirtations that cause jealousies and schemes that are the downfalls of both characters.
Laam’s characterization of Natalya portrays her as a complex woman — beautiful and intelligent, in love with her husband, caught up in flirtations with other men. Unjustly condemned for her part in the duel that killed her husband, Laam depicts Natalya as a woman at the mercy of her own beauty — and of men more powerful than herself.
There were portions of The Lost Season of Love and Snow that plodded a bit, but overall it’s a powerful story exploring the ups and downs of love and the pressures of high society on that love. It’s a wonderful imagining of a woman forgotten by history. The evocative images of Russia in the early 19th century are both beautiful and lonely, reminding readers of a time when the world was both much simpler and more complex.
Laam’s book is perfect for the cold, lonely hours of January. Pick it up and enjoy the imagery of Russia in winter, and then be thankful for central heating and Netflix!!!
Oooh, and because it’s finally 2018, I have a special treat for you! An excerpt of The Lost Season of Love and Snow!
From The Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam. Copyright © 2017 by the author and reprinted with permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.
A man says he will die for you. A woman is taught to lower her gaze and blush before hiding once more behind a silken fan. Men are given to self-aggrandizement, while women flatter egos and keep men tied to this earth. Such is the way of the world, or so I was taught in the days before I gained a reputation as the villain of St. Petersburg.
I know better now.
When a man declares he will die for you, sometimes a woman must take him at his word. For to allow one’s husband to perish on the field of honor is a shameful affair, worse even, than murdering him by your own hand.
The solemn men who gather at our flat fall silent as my husband draws his final breath. A prickly chill, like the first wave of a fever, washes over me as I realize my husband is gone. The sorrow tightens my chest and clamps down, squeezing until I think my body will snap in two. I sway on my feet and believe I will faint. Only the invisible force of my will keeps me upright. Dark blood still seeps from his abdomen and a sharp metallic scent clings to the air.
For two days my husband had been one of the waking dead, suffering a cruel and lingering death. Though I was not present at the duel where he fought to defend my honor, the image of Alexander collapsing, his blood staining the snow crimson, haunts my every thought. I have slid into despair, veering between hysteria and hopelessness, while Alexander’s wound festered and his once vibrant face distorted with agony.
His friends stand in a semicircle around his body, backs erect, mouths set in stern lines, and expressions stoic even as their eyes dampen with tears.
“What a waste,” I hear one of them mutter. “A genius lost over a woman.”
The words echo in my head. I was the wife of a distinguished man of letters, the greatest in our land, and I let his life slip through my fingers. These men suppose I care only for material comforts and romantic diversions and don’t believe I possess the wits about me to appreciate my husband’s talent. Rumormongers have convinced them I love the empty-headed Georges d’Anthès or have fallen prey to the advances of our iron-jawed tsar. They consider my behavior traitorous, as terrible in its own way as if I had joined the ranks of the Napoleonic soldiers who once threatened our very heartland.
I will confess to basking too long in the attention of Georges and even the tsar himself, yet I am no Jezebel, merely human, as vulnerable to flattery as any other creature. Much as I may wish to do so, I cannot change the past. The damage is done. A fresh wave of tears threatens and subsides, as though nothing remains inside me to expel. I wonder how long I will live with the torment of my guilt and the censure of those who claim to love my husband.