Sunday, August 12, 2012

Winter Garden, Kristin Hannah

I recently read Kristin Hannah's Winter Garden. Hannah's work frequently centers around women's lives and relationships. Her novel Firefly Lane focused on female friendships, and True Colors was about Sisterhood. In Winter Garden, Hannah turns her attention to the bond between mothers and daughters.

Winter Garden a novel by Kristin Hannah
Meredith and Nina have never been close with their mother, Anya, a cold and distant women who reserves most of her love and affection for her husband. The only way they could ever connect with their mother was through the fairy tales she told them as children. When their father passes, it is as though they have lost the thread that tied them together as a family.

On his deathbed, their father makes Anya promise to finally finish telling the fairy tale. Only when Anya finally opens up and Meredith and Nina finally start to listen do they realize the meaning behind the story their mother has spent her lifetime trying to tell them.

In this book, Hannah shifts from contemporary issues to take on the past, specifically, Leningrad during World War II. Hannah tells two parallel stories; the story of Meredith, Nina and Anya, and the story of Anya's past that her daughters knew nothing about.

Winter Garden gives a personalized, though fictional, account of a woman and her family's struggle to survive in Leningrad during the war - a tragic time about which not much is known. Readers may enjoy the historical side of this novel; Stalin's oppressive regime and the fear and silence that surrounded it, the women who were left behind while the men went off to fight and how the city of Leningrad fared.

Be patient, especially with the first half of this book as it is slow and repetitive at times. Hannah's story set in the present is not as strong as the story set in the past. Your patience will pay off when, deep into Anya's fairy tale, you will be captivated, as I was.

This is a story that haunt you. In an essay by Hannah which appears at the end of the Special Edition of Winter Garden, Hannah writes, "I wanted to give you all this story survival and loss, horror and heartache in a way that would allow you to experience it with some measure of emotion." And she does just that.

She writes, "The survivors' stories literally clawed their way into my heart and there they remain." Anya's story will claw it's way into your heart too.

This review is written based upon Winter Garden Special Edition, featuring a Conversation with Kristin Hannah, an Essay on Research by the Author, and Recipes featured in the book.