It’s a real pleasure today to be sharing – at long last – my review of Gorgito’s Ice Rink by Elizabeth Ducie, in celebration of the book’s fifth birthday. I was delighted to see that Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources was organising a blog blitz (thank you Rachel for the invitation and support), because this is a book that has been on my kindle (to my shame!) since shortly after it was published, and it was the perfect opportunity to add it to my reading list. And if you’d like to add it to your reading list too, Gorgito’s Ice Rink is only 99p/c in all territories until 14th October.
I’ve featured Elizabeth Ducie and her excellent books here on Being Anne several times over the intervening years – I thoroughly enjoyed both Deception! and Corruption! from the Suzanne Jones series (links are to my reviews), and Elizabeth joined me for a rather lovely interview in 2016. Goodness, she even interviewed me – you’ll find that here, on her excellent blog. But Gorgito’s Ice Rink was the book that had always particularly appealed to me – and I was delighted to find that it was everything I hoped it would be.
Gorgito’s Ice Rink was runner up in Writing Magazine’s 2015 Self-Published Book of the Year Awards.
Two small boys grieving for lost sisters — torn between family and other loves. Can keeping a new promise make up for breaking an old 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?
A story of love, loss and broken promises. Gorgito’s story, told through the eyes of the people whose lives he touched.
When I started to read this book, the rain was driving down outside, the wind was picking up – but it all entirely passed me by as I was whisked away to rural Russia in the 1990s, to find the book’s characters battling with bureaucracy, following their dreams and struggling to deliver their promises. The story itself – on the surface, larger than life factory owner Gorgito’s quest to build an ice rink at Nikolevsky to enable his god-daughter Yulia to fulfil her dreams without leaving her homeland and young brother behind – is simply wonderful.
But there’s also a compelling history behind the opposition and enmity of local mayor Victor – and that’s a fascinating and emotional story, as we find out more about Gorgito’s promise to his mother through his sister Maria’s first person telling of her heartbreaking post-war story. I really loved the way the book was structured, both story lines with their echoes of love and loss – this really was story-telling at its very best.
And I equally enjoyed the story of Emma – an English engineer working with Gorgito in his factory in Nikolevsky, becoming his friend and confidante, while facing personal challenges of her own and finding her way in an unfamiliar environment, with an unexpected and convincing touch of romance along the way.
There’s a realism about Emma’s life evidently drawn from the author’s first hand experience, and I really enjoyed all the little touches – like the trick with vodka and water! – that brought the realities of her day-to-day so vividly to life. The author’s depiction of rural Russia within the timeframe of the story (and the post-war years) was also remarkable – great descriptions, decline and decay, and you could feel the weight of wading through officialdom, with power invested in individuals who frequently misuse it.
I’d recommend this book most highly – an engrossing story, a very sure emotional touch, and an opportunity to explore a culture and way of life that was totally outside my experience. I’m just sorry it took me so long to get round to reading it…
About the author
When Elizabeth Ducie had been working in the international pharmaceutical industry for nearly thirty years, she decided she’d like to take a break from technical writing – text books, articles and training modules – and write for fun instead. She started by writing travel pieces, but soon discovered she was happier, and more successful, writing fiction. In 2012, she gave up the day job, and started writing full-time. She has published four novels, three collections of short stories and a series of manuals on business skills for writers.