Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Audio book narrated by Susan Ericksen

My rating: First half 2*, second half 5* – therefore 4* overall

A wonderful tale of life and love in Leningrad

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Meredith and Nina have been brought up listening to their mother’s fairy stories.  At their father’s deathbed Nina promises to find out the ending to her mother’s most often told fairytale .

Winter GardenMeredith and Nina, though close, have very different lives.  Meredith lives near to her parents, with her husband and children, and plays an active part in the family business.  Nina travels around the world taking photos of different lives.

Halfway through this novel the mother starts telling the story, which takes place in  Leningrad many years previously during the rule of Stalin, and  the second World War.  It is a love story set during the harshest of times, where the reader is taken into the everyday world of a family’s survival in a city besieged.  From this point on the story is gripping, emotionally involving and  fascinating with upsetting and uplifting moments. 

When I started listening to this audiobook I realised I had started it before, and given up, so I didn’t feel I could give it up again and send it back (under the Audible returns scheme) so I kept going.  The first 7 hours dragged, but the second 7 hours were absolutely brilliant, and totally involving. The characters came alive, and I found myself completely immersed in their struggles to survive, and also their hopes and dreams.    The first half is needed to set the scene, but I wish it had been shorter.   The epilogue gives some startling facts about the history of Leningrad at this time. 

4*s from me, because I struggled through the first half, but the second half drew such a strong picture of life in Leningrad and the family, that it deserves 5*s plus.    This is an emotional rollercoaster of a story.  Well researched, beautifully written, with a story that I will remember  for a very long time.  It was well narrated, but perhaps a paper/ebook version would have made it easier to skim through the first half a bit faster. 

Warning:   I was on a busy footpath during the second half of this book, when I started crying due to my involvement in the events taking place.    Difficult to explain to other hikers that I’m fine but the characters in my audiobook novel are having a difficult time! 

USA cover

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