I bought this book, I think, four years ago, during one of my crazy book shopping sprees. I was drawn to it because the back of the book read:
How can a woman know herself if she doesn’t really know her mother?
In the past I had what Facebook would call a “complicated relationship” with my mother, and when I read that sentence I was stunned. In a way it is true. how can a woman know herself if she doesn’t know her mother, but at the same time, I always believed we are what we want to be. So intrigued by interesting idea I bought this book, and was utterly surprised to find a story in story that has pulled me in so much I never even stopped to make a mark. Because of the story itself I never found a favorite quote.
In one sentence: It is a story of survival, of vulnerability, and strength beyond imaginable.
Title: Winter garden
Author: Kristin Hannah
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: Novel, 394 pages
Published: 2. February 2010 by St. Martin’s Press
Short synopsis from Goodreads:
From the author of the smash-hit bestseller Firefly Lane and True Colors comes a powerful, heartbreaking novel that illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past.
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.
I’ve never really paid much attention to historical fiction until I read the book Tuscan Rose. That book changed me. I looked at the genre with different eyes. Being in my thirties I’m not a generation that lived through the horrors of World Wars, but my grandparents have, and having that in mind, I kept thinking how very different our world is from theirs. Like the two sisters in the book Winter Garden I wouldn’t understand the coldness their mother possessed. The detachment. And after their father’s death even insanity.
My fondest memory of my childhood are the stories my grandfather told me. I never thought a lot of them, and after reading this book I think they perhaps I should. Like with children that tell their life stories while playing, the elderly tell us story of their lives through stories. The mother, Verornika (Vera), told a few stories over and over when the girls were little, but she never really finished them. When she promised her dying husband that she’ll tell the end to the girls, she had to keep the promise.
What unfolded in front us are not fairy tales, but her life story she kept secret for so long. The horrors of the war in Russia, the love lost, incredible strength and the will to survive, the little and big things that made her into the mother we meet in the beginning.
“We women make choices for others, not for ourselves, and when we are mothers, we…bear what we must for our children. You will protect them. It will hurt you; it will hurt them. Your job is to hide that your heart is breaking and do what they need you to do.”
My heart broke a hundred times with Winter Garden, but it also awoken my love of history, and respect for women in that time. The lives of the women in the war were so different from the lives we have now. The easy life that we are so rarely grateful for.
The book is well worth of the money I paid for it. It is a story that will stay with me forever, it is one that kept me thinking even days after I stopped reading. It took 3 days to finish it, years to write this review, and yet I remember the story as if I read it yesterday. That for me is a five star book.
I would recommend this story to people who love historical fiction. It is more a woman’s book then men’s, but it gives us a unique look into lives of Russian women during the war, so it’s not what I would call chick-lit, far from it.
Thank you, Kristin Hannah for the story that opened my heart and made me think what kind of mother I want to be some day.
Until next time, live your story and hug your momma!