Monday, January 8, 2018

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: The Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam

From the Back Cover:

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.

My Thoughts:

I knew nothing about Alexander Pushkin other than that he was a famous poet, I knew nothing about his wife or that he died in a duel defending her honor, so of course once I saw the blurb for The Lost Season of Love and Snow, I had to read it. What a subject for a novel!

Despite being bound by the constraints of historical fact, this is very much a character-driven story. In the prologue, I was a bit put off by Natalya. Her husband has literally just breathed his last breath and all she can think about is how she is going to repair her reputation. But I told myself that I did not yet know what had happened to make this her first reaction, and as her past unfolds, the way her light is dimmed by the expectations of marriage and society, the way she bears the blame for the transgressions of others, the way she is robbed of her own destiny, witnessing her despair and regret, I could not help but feel for her.

We first meet young Natalya as an idealistic sixteen-year-old whose love for romantic novels shapes her expectations of love and courtship. A celebrated yet humble beauty with writing aspirations of her own, she catches the eye of Russia's favorite poet shortly after her introduction into society and quickly weaves grand dreams around a life with him. Eventually she will get that life, and though it will bring her passion and love, it will also bring her disappointment and heartbreak. The pressure of being Russia's greatest poet often takes a toll on Alexander, and Natalya often finds herself putting her husband's needs above her own. Never achieving the success she hoped for with her own attempts at writing, she begins to indulge in what she thinks are innocent pleasures where she can find them, mainly amidst the glittering and "courtly love" atmosphere of St. Petersburg society, where she has become the belle of the ball. But she unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that will forever alter not only her own life, but the landscape of Russian literature.

"You have only known the sorrows of a beautiful and clever woman. You did nothing wrong."

At times I was tempted to dismiss Natalya for being vain and foolish, but I can see how relishing her status as a great beauty and a woman oft admired and desired was the only real option left to her to feel some self-worth in the shadow of her husband's talent and fame. Upon presentation at court, she is immediately dismissed as being beneath her husband's intellect simply by way of her beauty, and her husband is not supportive of her own attempts at writing. She does find joy in being a wife and a mother, but still she yearns for that something more, and I think we can all identify with that.

Sometimes the beauty of a book is knowing at the beginning how it's going to end and then building the tension and suspense to the point that the reader, though knowing what's coming, can't wait to see how it all shakes out, and that's exactly what happens here. Aside from the prologue, I thought the first third of the book to be rather slow-moving, and I confess I grew a bit bored during Natalya and Alexander's lengthy and often long-distance courtship, but once they married, the narrative became much more compelling. I could not turn the pages fast enough as the fateful hour drew near, and I shed a tear during the very tender and moving final scene between husband and wife. And I lamented that even in the immediate aftermath of Alexander's death, Natalya was not allowed the freedom to express her grief, still subject to the expectations of how someone else thought she should behave.

Not having read anything of Pushkin's beforehand, I was disappointed and a bit surprised that so few lines of his work were presented in the story. We get to see his inspiration and his methods, but not the actual results, and I can't help but feel that a few selected excerpts in apt moments would have enriched the story. But I still found The Lost Season of Love and Snow to be a poignant and satisfying examination of a woman unfairly vilified for her role in the beloved poet's death, by people who never seemed to consider that she was grieving him more than they were. And though she loses the love of her life, she achieves the ultimate triumph by managing to make her own peace, in the process finding happiness again, and ensuring that her husband's works were never forgotten.

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

The Lost Season of Love and Snow is on a blog tour!

GIVEAWAY!

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 paperback copies of The Lost Season of Love and Snow! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on January 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Lost Season of Love and Snow

8 comments:

  1. Hi Jenny! Thank you so much for hosting Jennifer Laam's Blog Tour! I am so happy that you enjoyed The Lost Season of Love and Snow.

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book Tours

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  2. What an intriguing review! Like you, I don't know much about Pushkin but your review has convinced me that I need to learn more. Great cover!

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    1. That cover was what initially drew me to the book!

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  3. Thank you for your review. I'm looking forward to reading it. Sounds like a good read .
    Carol Luciano
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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  4. Thanks for this introduction to the Pushkins. I knew nothing about them other than the poet bit myself.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Mystica! I've been enjoying your pics on facebook!

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