The Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam
Published: January 2/18. St. Martin’s
At sixteen-years-old, Natalya Goncharova would rather spend her evening engrossed in Russian poetry, essays and romance novels that have influenced her idea of love and future courtship. Instead, she is all dolled up and off to the dance master’s ball with her sisters — a night that will forever change her life. There she meets Leo Tolstoy who introduces her to the famous Russian writer Alexander Pushkin. The two instantly capture one and other’s hearts. She may be pleased but it is a different story for her family, especially her strict mother who eyes Pushkin with suspicion.
Back then it was important for a girl to marry a practical man – not some poet that also has some risqué behavior. Not only is Pushkin known as a womanizer, but he is also a sympathizer with the Decembrists. They were a group of rebels that led a protest against Tsar Nicholas I being crowned after his brother Constantine gave up his line in the succession. Throughout the novel Pushkin is not afraid to voice his support for those Decembrists friends he lost, while adding how he would’ve gladly join the revolt – something that doesn’t sit well with Natalya.
Marriage is not what Natalya had envisioned — Pushkin would often leave her alone at the house so he could go off and attend to his writing business, thus making her increasing lonely. It also doesn’t help that when they are out for the evening, Natayla is on edge because she feels everyone’s judgmental eyes are on her —which they are. It is important for her to remember that since her husband is a successful poet, the couple will be mainly judged on every aspect of their appearance. But Natalya pushes onward, she and Pushkin begin a family and everything is fine until the loneliness gets to her and one bad decision brings everything crashing down.
Georges d’Anthes begins an unhealthy pursuit of Natalya, who we can see struggled because although she loved her husband, she was finally getting that attention she craved for. And while she remains faithful to her husband, Pushkin is determined to defends his wife honor — even if that means a duel to the death.
Yes, Natalya was naïve and careless with her actions. But we are all human — no one is perfect and everybody makes mistakes. That fact that she was so villainized by these events and she couldn’t really move on with her life because of what had become of her reputation really annoyed me — because this same practice of people involving themselves in other people’s business is still done today. It is hard for me to really take a side on this, what even more sad is that because of this, the world lost a great Russian poet.
Kirsten Lowe studies at Athabasca University.