"Winter Garden" has to one of my most favorite books by Kristin Hannah. The book is about 3 women and their journey of discovery of who they are, of family history, of sacrifices made, of sisterhood and family secrets.
The book opens up when sisters Meredith and Nina are putting on a family play of a ‘fairy tale’ their mother Anya often tells them at night – of a Russian Prince and peasant girl. The acting out of this play angers Anya and the play is stopped. This is when they, as sisters become distant with each other and believe their cold, distant mother doesn’t love them. Fast forward to current day – when the 2 sisters; Meredith, the nurturer who runs the family apple orchard but living in a troubled marriage - Nina, prize-winning and world-renowned photojournalist, someone who avoids coming home and committing to a relationship, and Anya, their mother. They are forced to deal with their father’s death and promises each has made to him on his death bed. These promises force the 3 women to open up about their lives to each other and discover who they are as women and what they want. As Anya finally tells the full fairy tale of the prince and peasant girl - Meredith and Nina discover who their mother really is, of her strength, endurance and regrets.
There are moments in this books that are sad, heartbreaking, yet captivating – I so enjoyed the story within a story although not always a happy or feel good type of read. I did feel the beginning of the book was a little slow to take off but well worth hanging in there - so I would give the book more of a 4 1/2 stars. There were some surprises and some parts that were very predictable. This actually was an audiobook which was narrated by Susan Ericksen. I felt she did an excellent job and made the book very enjoyable to listen to, her Irish and Russian accents were right on for me.
Glad to be part of the audible community and I hope that my reviews help to choose the right book and share my love of reading.
Get this book! Story and character development are well done, it is not a chick-book - it's a well developed and researched story. Narration is great. Would buy even if not on sale.
The story is like none other I have ever read or listened to, there was no feeling of been there,done that, with this book. The "fairytales" just sucked me in, I felt a part of them. The performance was exquist. Susan Erickson made each character their own and just did an amazing job. So very worth listening to.
Generally speaking, I don't care for the old-woman-telling-scandalous-tales-from-her-youth genre (Margaret Atwood, Nevada Barr, Tana French, etc etc) but for whatever dumb reason, I seem to end up buying them without knowing what I'm doing. My fault, not paying close enough attention, apparently. Anyway, in this one, the underlying story isn't all that bad, it's just that the endless Russian fairy tale that the old woman tells runs on like War and Peace. On and on and on, it never seems to end. So after the third installment of the fairy tale -- rendered in a really grating attempt at a Russian accent -- I discovered that one could simply fast-forward through the telling of the tale, and not lose much of anything. Granted, the ending doesn't make much sense when you do that -- but other reviewers have noted that the ending doesn't make much sense anyway. I did enjoy the interplay between the two very different sisters, and the cold mother is something I personally know about, so that hit home. I just wish Hannah had left out the Russian tale -- the characters she created were worthy of a fine story all by themselves, without that endless, droning, never ending rendition of young love in a cold climate. But I learned my lesson: from now on, I will read ALL reader comments. Even if the official book reviewers don't care to disclose what the story is really about, usually some reader will do so. Thank Gd for the internet and reader reviews!
Kristin Hannah has fast become one of my favorite authors. She knows how to tell a woman's story. They have so far (I have read this and Firefly Lane) been a bit dramatic and extreme, but believeable. In this case, it was a bit tiresome as the two sisters squabbled back and forth over the same issues, but that is reality in a family (I have three sisters). And the mother was a bit extreme in her hesitancy (refusal) to connect emotionally with these two daughters. But the mother's tale was riveting. This was delightful to listen to (if you can call the struggles Anya went through delightful). I will get more books by Hannah to listen to and recommend others do the same.
I wanted to enjoy this book, but it I was frustrated by the wooden characterization and the slow pace. More frustrating was the fact that the story seems to hinge on certain realizations that I could see coming almost from the first chapter.
Love the story and there are lessons to learn! Women go through a lot and also have a lot to learn. Will definitely try others books from this author.
Awesome! It was an interesting way of introducing the story line over generations. The story was never finished until the last page. How could you not feel the joy and the pain of the mother as a child and her daughters struggle to understand her. It just gets better and better. I loved this book. I will listen again and again.