Today’s team review comes from Noelle, she blogs at http://saylingaway.wordpress.com
Noelle chose to read and review Gorgito’s Ice-Rink by Elizabeth Ducie
Book Review: Gorgito’s Ice Rink by Elizabeth Ducie
Gorgito’s Ice Rink is at its core a family saga, set largely in Russia and alternating in time between the mid to late 1990’s and the post-WW II era in 1949. It derives from the author’s travel experiences and her background in helping writers set up and run their small businesses. The story develops from the loss of their sisters by two small boys, one in the 1990s and another in 1949.
Emma Chambers meets the larger-than-life Georgian, Gorgito Tabatadze, when she takes over for another in her company in order to get Gorgito’s factory up and running in the picturesque town of Nikolevsky, Russia, in 1995. She discovers, while watching figure skaters on the River Volga that Gorgito wants to build an ice rink for the most talented of them, Yulia Semenova, to draw people to his town. Having had a Russian Grandmother, Emma speaks the language and fits well into the community. When Yulia is lured to the US to train, leaving her little brother Dima behind, Gorgito becomes even more determined to fulfill his plan, in order to bring Yulia home. Gorgito himself lost his sister, Maria, who left home without telling anyone where she was going. She was following the love of her life, an older soldier she’d met in her tiny rural town, to Moscow. She disappears from Gorgito’s life and he cannot find her in the vast spaces of Russia and with the Communist regulations of the time.
The first part of the book is written in third person omniscient. I think because of this, the reader never makes the emotional connection with Emma that is made in the second part of the book with Maria. Maria’s story is told in first person, and because of that, this part of the book came alive and spoke to me.
In part three, Emma returns to Nikolevsky, despite the fact her first job there was over; she discovers her husband has had an extended affair with their next door neighbor during her long absence and realizes she has no strong ties to what was her home. Gorgito enlists her to help him run his factory and run interference with the local Mayor, who has very personal reasons for blocking the construction of the ice rink. Can Emma and Gorgito overcome bureaucracy, corruption, economic melt-down and the harsh Russian climate to get the ice-rink built and bring home a lost sister?
The strength of this book is in its characters and the accurate descriptions of life in Russia. Gorgito himself is a scene stealer, with all his foibles and love for life. Victor Romanovitch, the Mayor, undergoes a transformation as the story progresses, as the reader learns more about him and Maria. Maria, is colorful, if foolish, but loyal and deeply in love with Alexander Rastinov, who reminds me of the character Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind: bookish, loyal and proud, but deeply caring of his family.
The Russian background comes through loud and clear, the English background much less so. Having lived in a Soviet satellite during the Cold War, I found the author’s descriptions of life in Russia to be spot on – politics, regulations, food, deprivations, and the spirit of the people.
Gorgito’s Ice Rink is a leisurely read that gradually draws the reader into the saga. It is informative to readers not familiar with that time and place, and while emotionally understated, is a lovely story.