Gorgito’s Ice Rink
by Elizabeth Ducie
Today we’re celebrating “Gorgito’s Ice Rink” with a birthday blitz! Thanks very much to Rachel’s Random Resources and author Elizabeth Ducie who have kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review to celebrate this book’s fifth birthday.
Two small boys grieving for lost sisters — torn between family and other loves. Can the fulfilment of one promise make up for the failure to keep an earlier one?
When Gorgito Tabatadze sees his sister run off with a soldier, he is bereft. When she disappears into Stalin’s Gulag system, he is devastated. He promises their mother on her death-bed he will find the missing girl and bring her home; but it is to prove an impossible quest.
Forty years later, Gorgito, now a successful businessman in post-Soviet Russia, watches another young boy lose his sister to a love stronger than family. When a talented Russian skater gets the chance to train in America, Gorgito promises her grief-stricken brother he will build an ice-rink in Nikolevsky, their home town, to bring her home again.
With the help of a British engineer, who has fled to Russia to escape her own heartache, and hindered by the local Mayor who has his own reasons for wanting the project to fail, can Gorgito overcome bureaucracy, corruption, economic melt-down and the harsh Russian climate in his quest to build the ice-rink and bring a lost sister home? And will he finally forgive himself for breaking the promise to his mother?
It’s 1995 and Emma Chambers is an English engineer working in Russia to help set up a tablet packing plant. Her grandmother was Russian so she speaks the language and is a hit with her new colleagues. She’s married to Pete, an accountant back home in Exeter and she knows she’s spending a little too much time away from home.
“Emma and her team arrived back in Nikolevsky a few weeks later for their next two-week visit. It was going to be a busy fortnight where distractions would be unwelcome and hard work the order of the day.
⠀⠀As soon as they arrived, Gorgito announced the Tuesday of the second week would be the official opening of the factory.
⠀⠀’But, Gorgito,’ Emma said, as soon as she heard the news, ‘I thought that was last week. That’s why we left our visit until now – to let you get the opening out of the way.’
⠀⠀’Emma,’ Gorgito purred, throwing wide his arms and grinning broadly at her, ‘how could I possibly have a party without my wonderful midwives?’
⠀⠀Emma wasn’t sure she heard him correctly.
⠀⠀’Yes, of course. This factory is my baby – my pride and joy – and you helped me give life to it – you were here at its birth. You have to be here for the celebrations.'”
Gorgito Evgenyvich Tabatadze is a big Georgian business man, born in 1940. He’s enthusiastic, he’s motivated and he’s a little quirky. When we first meet him, his goddaughter Yulia is nineteen years old and an aspiring skater. Her brother Dima is just nine years old and is devastated to learn that his sister will be leaving Russia for a future in the US. Gorgito has a history that means he can’t stand seeing this little boy upset and he’s determined to do everything he can to build a ice-rink that will bring his goddaughter back home to Nikolevsky.
I was really interested to read this book as I can’t say I have any real knowledge or experience of Russia. I feel that now I’ve finished, I’ve had a small taste of the country and can understand a few things about their history, culture and customs thanks to the author’s descriptive writing.
The story flicks back and forth between time, but is mostly set in the 1990s. The author had a similar experience to Emma, working as a production project manager in Russia during this time herself, so you know that this is a book written with great care and plenty of real life experience.
I was particularly fond of Emma and I think this is because she was the character I could relate to most. I found it a little strange that a lot of the characters were repeatedly referred to by their full names (maybe this is a Russian thing?), but in general the characters were realistic and mostly likable.
The book was a little long for my tastes and I think I’d have enjoyed it a little more if had been a short story or novella. That said, I found it to be very interesting, and I’d recommend it for anyone looking to learn a little more about Russia through a beautifully descriptive piece of fiction.
Overall rating: “Gorgito’s Ice Rink” is an interesting story, especially for someone with little knowledge of Russia. This book is a tale of love, loss and broken promises that deserves a little love on its publication birthday. I’m sure many people will enjoy this story and learn a little bit while reading too.
Don’t forget to check out the reviews of other blogs on the blitz today and if this sounds like your kind of book, support the author by picking up a copy on Amazon UK.