Gorgito’s Ice Rink is at its core a family saga, set largely in Russia and alternating in time between the mid to late 1990’s and the post-WW II era in 1949. It derives from the author’s travel experiences and her background in helping writers set up and run their small businesses. The story develops from the loss of their sisters by two small boys, one in the 1990s and another in 1949.
Emma Chambers meets the larger-than-life Georgian, Gorgito Tabatadze, when she takes over for another in her company in order to get Gorgito’s factory up and running in the picturesque town of Nikolevsky, Russia, in 1995. She discovers, while watching figure skaters on the River Volga, that Gorgito wants to build an ice rink for the most talented of them, Yulia Semenova, to draw people to his town. Having had a Russian Grandmother, Emma speaks the language and fits well into the community. When Yulia is lured to the US to train, leaving her little brother Dima behind, Gorgito becomes even more determined to fulfill his plan, in order to bring Yulia home. Gorgito himself lost his sister, Maria, who left home without telling anyone where she was going. She was following the love of her life, an older soldier she’d met in her tiny rural town, to Moscow. She disappears from Gorgito’s life and he cannot find her in the vast spaces of Russia and with the Communist regulations of the time.
The first part of the book is written in third person omniscient. I think because of this, the reader never makes the emotional connection with Emma that is made in the second part of the book with Maria. Maria’s story is told in first person, and because of that, this part of the book came alive and spoke to me.
In part three, Emma returns to Nikolevsky, despite the fact her first job there was over; she discovers her husband has had an extended affair with their next door neighbor during her long absence and realizes she has no strong ties to what was her home. Gorgito enlists her to help him run his factory and run interference with the local Mayor, who has very personal reasons for blocking the construction of the ice rink. Can Emma and Gorgito overcome bureaucracy, corruption, economic melt-down and the harsh Russian climate to get the ice-rink built and bring home a lost sister?
The strength of this book is in its characters and the accurate descriptions of life in Russia. Gorgito himself is a scene stealer, with all his foibles and love for life. Victor Romanovitch, the Mayor, undergoes a transformation as the story progresses, as the reader learns more about him and Maria. Maria, is colorful, if foolish, but loyal and deeply in love with Alexander Rastinov, who reminds me of the character Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind: bookish, loyal and proud, but deeply caring of his family.
The Russian background comes through loud and clear, the English background much less so. Having lived in a Soviet satellite during the Cold War, I found the author’s descriptions of life in Russia to be spot on – politics, regulations, food, deprivations, and the spirit of the people.
Gorgito’s Ice Rink is a leisurely read that gradually draws the reader into the saga. It is informative to readers not familiar with that time and place, and while emotionally understated, is a lovely story.
About the author:
Elizabeth Ducie began writing when she was very young. essays and poetry helped her win an overseas trip via a newspaper competition, when she was still a teenager. She returned to creative writing in 2006 after 30+ years as a technical writer, and since then has written articles for content websites and on commission, plus short stories and poetry. Ms. Ducie is currently the editor of the Chudleigh Phoenix Community Magazine, which has grown from a 4-page, bimonthly publication to a monthly 10-pager. Together with friend and fellow writer Sharon Cook, she launched the Chudleigh Phoenix Annual Short Story Competition, which is now in its fifth year.
In July 2011, she and Sharon Cook published a collection of short stories and a second collection in November 2012. Both anthologies are available either as paperbacks or as ebooks. On her own, she’s published Sunshine and Sausages, a how-to book on running a successful summer garden party; Parcels in the Rain and Other Writing, a collection of short stories, flash fiction, travel writing and memoirs; and The Business of Writing series of e-books, based on lectures and blog posts aimed at helping writers set up and run their own small businesses.
Gorgito’s Ice Rink is her debut novel, set in Russia and based partly on her travel experiences. To help move the book along, Ms. Ducie enrolled in the MA program in Creative Writing at Exeter University. She graduated in January 2013, and the book was published in October 2014.
She admits far too much time on Facebook and Twitter, but has met some great writing buddies along the way.
Elizabeth can be found on her blog: http://elizabethducie.blogspot.com/ and on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/Elizabeth-Ducie-Author-312553422131146/
Her book can be found on Amazon: