K's Reviews > Winter Garden

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
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For the most part, this book is basically chick lit striving for complexity and failing to achieve it. Meredith and Nina are two sisters who fall into typical roles: Meredith is the dutiful daughter, raising two kids and running her family’s business, and Nina is her flighty, artistic younger sister, a highly successful (Pulitzer-winning, no less) photojournalist who refuses to settle down. Meredith and Nina are semi-estranged from each other and from the unbelievably cold, distant mother who raised them, Anya. However, their beloved father Evan – unfailingly warm, loving, devoted to his daughters and to his wife and apparently clueless about his wife’s emotional neglect of Meredith and Nina – is dying, and his deathbed wish is for Meredith and Nina to get to know their mother and to listen to the fairy tale she will tell them. This fairy tale proves to be a disguised version of their mother’s life during the Siege of Leningrad, and as Meredith and Nina finally convince their reluctant mother to share it with them, they learn about Anya’s past and begin to feel closer to her and of course, to each other.

Anya’s “fairy tale” was actually the most engrossing part of this book and probably the one thing that kept me reading. Anya’s experience during the Siege of Leningrad was a powerful and poignant story of a woman trying to survive and to save her children in horrific circumstances. In spite of my complaints about the book, I admit to some teary moments while listening to these parts.

Otherwise, the book didn’t offer me a great deal. All of the characters were nuance-challenged and psychological complexity was sorely lacking. Anya was completely cold and Evan was completely warm, and somehow this never caused problems in their marriage. In contrast, Meredith, married for two decades to her still-devoted high school sweetheart, suddenly recognized her inability to treat her husband with the love and warmth he gave her even when she realized she was at risk of losing him. I suppose this was meant to illustrate Meredith’s similarity to her mother despite her strong desire to be different, but Meredith’s behavior, like Anya’s, was too caricaturish to be sympathetic or even believable. Then there was Nina, dating a guy who was not only gorgeous and successful but crazy about her and dying for her to marry him while she simply couldn’t commit to him. Oh, spare me. Good old chick lit wish-fulfillment, old being the operative word here. And on top of all that, the ending was worthy of the world’s corniest Targum-Feldheim novel. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you’re anything like me, your eyes will be rolling to kingdom come.

Pretty disappointing for a book with an average goodreads rating of 4.0. Which means I’m obviously in the minority, so maybe it’s just me.
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Reading Progress

08/01/2010 "I dunno...so far, I'm really not impressed. What's up with this wish-fulfillment thing of pining men wanting more intimacy with their wives and women trying to substitute sex or otherwise keep them distant?"

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by M (new) - rated it 1 star

M yeh I saw you posted this and I saw the 4.0 and got it from the library - was all excited but now ... I guess I'll see which side I fall with

message 2: by K (new) - rated it 2 stars

K I always love it when we both read the same book and can compare opinions. I do look forward to hearing what you think.

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