I am a sucker for historical fiction. I'm a sucker for family history stories. I'm a sucker for Russia. So when I was contacted by author Lyle Scott Lee about reviewing his new novel The Spirit of Nora and learned that it contains all three of these elements, I was all over it.
From the back of the book: Stretched across the backdrop of bustling New York, romantic Paris, and rural Russia in the early twentieth century, The Spirit of Nora vividly portrays the emergence of a young Minnesota woman into a fiercely independent spirit. Leaving her home on the farm with her childhood friend Ella for nursing training in New York, Nora enters a changing world. After befriending two doctors on the train east, Nora and Ella spend many evenings with Tristan and Soren. But a terrible tragedy pulls Ella from Nora, who eventually travels farther east, searching for redemption for failing her friend.
Nora becomes wrapped up in the permissive lifestyle of French artists, embracing relationships with the lively Cassandra and talented Auguste. While in France, she is confronted with physical temptations and spiritual uncertainty until she learns of the communal setting established on the estate of the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. The spirit of Nora needs further nourishment for her wavering faith, and she continues yet farther east to Yasnaya Polyana to work with Tolstoy's translator. Through the following years, Nora learns of hardship, love, war, and the difficulties in finding balance between right and wrong. Ultimately, she must come face-to-face with the legacy of her lost friend.
This book was loosely based on the author's great-aunt, who was a nurse during the war and had many exciting adventures. However, much of the book is fiction, the author using his aunt as the character to show events in world history. This blending of fact and fiction was very interesting to me as I read, and I felt it lent a bit more authenticity to the historical fiction.
I enjoyed the emotions and the characterizations in the book quite a bit, and could easily picture the settings, whether we be on a train, in France, or in Russia. The flavor was just right in each instance. I did wish, however, that the book was longer. We covered so much ground and so many aspects of the war that in order to do them each justice, we could have had a book of 400 pages or more, and yet the novel is only 275 pages.
I will point out that there are some segments that I might categorize as PG to PG-13. There are some hints about certain physical relationships Nora may have had with her friends in France, and we do see a scene between herself and a handsome Russian farmer later in the book. I will say that it was rather short and not glamorized.
If you are interested in purchasing this novel, you can do so here.
And, if you would like to win a copy of the book, all you have to do is make sure you're a follower of this blog (and if you're not, you can become one) and leave a comment in the trail telling me you'd like to win. I will randomly select the winner at midnight on Saturday night, November 26th.
FTC: I did receive a free copy of this novel for review, but that did not influence my statements whatsoever.