The Lost Season of Love and Snow
Jennifer Laam’s third novel tells the ill-starred love story between Russia’s great poet, Alexander Pushkin, and his wife, Natalya. Told from Natalya’s point of view, the book explores the difficulties of being married to a writer—a poet, no less. Pushkin is older than his teenage bride, but she is immediately entranced by his passion and enthusiasm for life. In Natalya, Pushkin finds a beautiful, intelligent woman who can deal with his idiosyncrasies. Both display fervent jealousies; Natalya envies Pushkin’s power in this male-dominated world while Pushkin turns green if another man flirts with his wife at court.
Books written entirely in first-person are challenging for this reader, and in the early sections, the usual flaws are apparent. We are stuck too much in the thoughts and feelings of the young Natalya. However, as the story progresses, this point of view is handled with more subtlety. One problem remains, however. Natalya is a nascent writer herself at a time when women were not encouraged to be anything other than a wife and mother. Not enough is made of her desire to write in the beginning of the book to justify her dissatisfaction later. Perhaps giving her a specific writing project at the beginning might have helped this aspect of her personality develop more meaningfully. That said, the book is satisfying and reveals a great deal about the great Pushkin and his notorious wife.