- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (1 Feb. 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250121884
- ISBN-13: 978-1250121882
- Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.4 x 21 cm
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 beguiling age of sixteen, Natalya Goncharova is stunningly beautiful and intellectually curious. At her first public ball during the Christmas of 1828, she attracts the romantic attention of Russia’s most lauded rebel poet: Alexander Pushkin. Finding herself deeply attracted to Alexander’s intensity and joie de vivre, Natalya is swept up in a courtship and then a marriage full of passion but also destructive jealousies. When vicious court gossip leads Alexander to defend his honor as well as Natalya’s in a duel, he tragically succumbs to his injuries. Natalya finds herself reviled for her perceived role in his death. In her striking new novel, The Lost Season of Love and Snow, Jennifer Laam helps bring Natalya’s side of the story to life with vivid imagination–the compelling tale of her inner struggle to create a fulfilling life despite the dangerous intrigues of a glamorous imperial Court and that of her greatest love.
Historical fiction is still my favourite genre, especially when it is takes a different look at real historical figures and their lives. I know a bit about Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, and have studied some of his poetry as part of my degree course. Apart from his poetry what people remember is his marriage to one of Moscow’s most beautiful women, Natalya Pushkina, née Goncharova, who was blamed for his death after a flirtation led to a duel in which Pushkin was mortally wounded. In The Lost Season of Love and Snow Jennifer Laam tells the story from Natalya’s point of view, and portrays her not as a femme fatale, and villain but instead as a victim of society.
Jennifer Laam is a skilful writer and was able to bring to life early nineteenth century Russia to life, and had obviously done a lot of research. Her attention to detail, in both setting and characters, draw you in and paint wonderful pictures of the palaces, the costumes and the characters themselves. Natalya was only sixteen when she met Pushkin, and he was thirty, but this was acceptable in nineteenth century Russia; women were married off young so they no longer had to be supported by their family. Natalya was a figure I was really drawn to, I had empathy for the situation she found herself in; a beautiful woman in a society ruled by men. No woman in the Russian court could turn away from the Tsar, although Natalya tried her best. Bearing in mind what has happened in today’s society this is an interesting read of how a woman is viewed as a beautiful object, and not an actual person, her intelligence and feelings are not taken into account. Her husband is obviously doomed from the beginning, as a young man he had been told by a fortune teller that he would die at the hands of a tall, fair haired man. Pushkin is the tortured genius we expect a poet to be, he doesn’t have much money and is at the whim of his imagination, and of the Tsar who censors his work.
The Lost Season of Love and Snow is an erudite and character driven novel. Full of historical fact and captures the zeitgeist of the era; the position of women, the class system, censorship, politics and the role of literature. I was captivated by this alternative history of Natalya and he role in Pushkin’s life. An evocative tale of love, jealousy, power and ultimately the death of a great poet; A brilliant piece of historical fiction.