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Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina's grip on the everyday. An elderly Russian woman now living in America, she cannot hold on to fresh memories—the details of her grown children's lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild—yet her distant past is miraculously preserved in her mind's eye.

Vivid images of her youth in war-torn Leningrad arise unbidden, carrying her back to the terrible fall of 1941, when she was a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum and the German army's approach signaled the beginning of what would be a long, torturous siege on the city. As the people braved starvation, bitter cold, and a relentless German onslaught, Marina joined other staff members in removing the museum's priceless masterpieces for safekeeping, leaving the frames hanging empty on the walls to symbolize the artworks' eventual return. As the Luftwaffe's bombs pounded the proud, stricken city, Marina built a personal Hermitage in her mind—a refuge that would stay buried deep within her, until she needed it once more. . . .

Includes an excerpt from Debra Deans The Mirrored World.

Topics: World War II and Family

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061747182
List price: $10.99
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This was a half-book. A story of an elderly woman who is suffering from Alzheimer's with her husband and children coping the best that they can. I appreciate the author's idea of flashbacks and retained memories, but I felt like I was never in the loop with what was happening. For some of the book I couldn't tell if it was Marina's actual memories or just a telling of her past. Most of the individuals were not fully developed or just unlikable in my opinion.

Being at the bombing of Leningrad and caring for the paintings at the Hermitage Museum, is where Marina's story was at its best. However, many questions are opened up and then never fully developed.

There is a lot of talk about individual paintings in the Museum and their importance to history but then it is never tied back to the story of Marina's escape from Russia, her marriage and her eventual bout with Alzheimer's. Why did she memorize the paintings, did it help bring them back after the war, how did she just happen upon her future husband at a prison camp, what happened to her uncle's children, etc. etc.

Missing too much to enjoy.more
The book is about a woman, in the present who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Her short term memory is shot, but her long term memory, specifically relating to the time she was a docent at the Hermitage (and when she was sheltered there during The Siege of Leningrad,) is still sharp. The author does a great job of describing what someone with Alzheimer's might be going through and; the story has it's moments of triumph and poignancy. It's similar to WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (by Sara Gruen) and THE HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET (by Jaimie Ford) in that the narrative alternates between the protag in an earlier time and a "now" time when they are old; but TMOL has a little more dignity inherent to it in that it's not as obviously emotionally provocative. I spent quite a bit of time at The Hermitage Museum web-site, checking out the art and architecture mentioned in the book. The web-site is excellent, with high resolution digital images and virtual tours; but wow! how I would love to see the place and the art in person!more
I think I may have only given this book 3 stars if it hadn't been for the way this book tied into my memories of the Hermitage. I was in Russia a bit over a year ago now. I love Russia, and my month long trip was a dream come true. I spent a couple days in the Hermitage, and it was not nearly enough. I read this book not because of Russia, but because I am reading for the Mental Health Awareness Challenge, and this book was towards Alzheimer's. I wish I got more of the emotions and feelings about this women going through her disease, but what I got was lovely as well. I really love how the women can see the beauty in everything now---- dust floating in the air, the sun rays coming in. How many of us take the time to appreciate the beauty life has to offer?

I think the author did a great job in portraying the main character slipping in and out of reality. I really enjoy (and I use this lightly because it's heart breaking) how she did a particular scene where the character feels like she is reliving her past and present at the same moment. The book in general is beautifully written. Her descriptions and word choice brings about a whole host of emotions throughout the novel.

Despite this, the book feels disjointed and choppy, but this has to be taken with a grain of salt because it is supposed to be. The women is going deeper and deeper into her disease and so one moment she is with everyone and the next reliving her past with the siege of Leningrad.

I'd like to know more about things in the story and incidents that took place; there's so much to the story that I'd like to continue. I feel like this could be my real life, begging my grandmother to tell me more stories and yet she simply does not or does not remember. I find it a huge shame, though understandable, that in this book the children know nothing of their parents' life during the war.

Overall I think the book is good. I would've liked more though. But I still recommend this book--- especially if anyone has visited the Hermitage before. It's amazing how a few words the author write brings up clear memories of things I've seen in the museum. I am not a huge art fan, so I looked, but didn't study most of the paintings. I love the statues, and walls & ceilings, the Egyptian art, the armor, and I even clearly remember the paintings of the dead game---- I think I was particularly morbid back then. Everything I LOVED was of death, or the cut open game, or whatnot. I was drawn in by the portrayal of these things that were not beautiful but rather haunting or so ordinary that it took someone taking to time to portray it to make you see the beauty in it. Anyways, I'm rambling about things other than the book now. I do hope others read the book to experience these things as well.more
Count me in with those who really liked this book. I like the way the author showed me how Marina felt: there were passages which left me momentarily uncertain as to where and "when" I was, much as Marina was experiencing with her loss of memory. There are unanswered questions in the book: Andrei's birth, how the family end up in America. But, Marina, I am sure, can't explain these gaps. Again, the author helped me to genuinely empathise with her character through her style of writing.I also loved the imagery in the book: heating up bottles of ink with your hands; frames without pictures.And, I liked the way the characters searched for meaning in their lives: Uncle Viktor completing his book; Marina's Aunt planning an entire meal around an anticipated pat of butter; remembering the paintings was said to be the only thing keeping Anya alive. This reminded me of Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning"The way the characters wept over small things long after they stopped crying for the dead spoke about the need for people to feel some measure of control in thier lives. So, they mourned that over which they felt they had some control, and not over what was beyond them.I've read some non-fiction about the war years in Russia (such as All Hell Let Loose by Max Hastings), and found the portrayal of life in Leningrad very true to life. I look forward to reading more books by Debra Dean.more
The paintings in the Hermitage were evacuated shortly before the Siege of Leningrad. Marina commits them to memory (her “Memory Palace”) to sustain her spirit over that three year period. This is how Dean brings these paintings to life for the reader. You will not want to read this book without summoning the actual paintings on your computer screen. They are really the whole point of the book.One might even say that the advertising term, Borrowed Interest, applies to Madonnas of Leningrad, so central are the paintings to the emotional appeal of the story. Through Marina's eyes, we see an introspective Madonna by Simone Martini, the almost adolescent wonderment of da Vinci's Benois Madonna, and the ripe forms and rippling surfaces of a Madonna by Crannach the Elder. Marina's memories form a sensual tour of the Hermitage's paintings. My advice – make a list of all the paintings in Marina's “Memory Palace.” Then go back and look up the actual paintings. It is in these moments that Marina will seem most real.The story drifts between World War II and the present-day, suggesting the mental drift Marina suffers due to progressing Alzheimer's Disease. It also points out the rich and private lives we live apart from our families – spouses, siblings, and even children. The parts of the book that soar are the dream-like memories. By night the blimps in the sky “swim like enormous white whales through a dark sea. She is swimming with the whales.” This lyricism contrasts with the horror and deprivation endured by the starving inhabitants of besieged Leningrad. Unfortunately, the present-day segments of the story, while poignant, feel flat compared to the richness of the “Memory Palace.” Read this book if you love art history.more
Seldom do I read a page turner like this novel, so beautifully written and artfully constructed.Marina is a young Russian woman who is a guide in the Hermitage when WWII and the advancing Nazis threaten. She and her fellow workers must bundle all the hundreds of art-filled rooms’ objects into cases to be shipped out of the city for safe-keeping, leaving the museum bare to serve as a bomb shelter to the workers and their families.In chapters that alternate between that past and Marina’s American present, in which she is deteriorating from advanced Alzheimer’s, we experience the beauty of the Hermitage through Marina’s interior reminiscences as she builds a memory palace of the exhibition rooms and peoples the now empty walls and frames with the paintings – so many of them various Madonnas -- and furnishings that have been whisked away. The chapters segue into each other, merging past and present, like halves of a peach brought together to make a whole fruit.By the end of the novel, Marina’s daughter, Helen, tries to discover this unknown woman who birthed her but kept her own past private by sketching her repeatedly as Marina’s mental and physical wanderings off decline into the abyss of total loss and death.But in life, Marina preserved the world’s beauty unhoused from the museum, was able to “show” it to a group of young cadets, and to the last, as an old woman in the US, again “show” it to a young construction worker who discovers her asleep in the fireplace of the mansion he’s building. Marina takes his arm, points in all the directions of this palace he is constructing and says, "Look!” as if showing him the beauty in the world from within the suggestion of the future "memory palace" under construction. In a way, Marina becomes a Madonna who is but one of myriad works of art that we all are in the museum of the world. One of the most masterful novels I’ve had the pleasure to read this year – complete and satisfying, far-roving and domestic, a total examination of life, art, suffering, perseverance, and love.more
A haunting atmosphere inhabits this novel as an elderly woman with Alzheimer's remembers her youth in war-torn Leningrad. Marina was once a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum, where she worked surrounded by masterpieces of art, and on the eve of World War Two, she helped pack away these masterpieces for safekeeping. As the German army lay siege to Leningrad, the empty Hermitage became the home to Marina and her family, where they lived in the cellar, safe from bombs but not the shortages accompanied by war. Marina spends her time remembering the museum as it was before the war, memories that remain sixty years later, even as others are wiped away.more
A beautifully constructed tale of an elderly woman with Alzheimer's who remembers her past much more clearly than her present. Marina is attending a family wedding but she rarely recognizes her own daughter, much less the young couple of honor. Marina's present slips easily into the past, when she was a young woman during the siege of Leningrad, removing famous works of art in the Hermitage Museum from their frames for storage and protection from the ravages of war. She endeavors to remember them all, especially various depictions of the Madonna, as a way of enduring the incredibly harsh conditions of living in the museum's cellar. Dean weaves past and present brilliantly. Though numerous descriptions of pieces of art that may be unfamiliar to the reader can grow tiresome, the author's spare and delicate language perfectly captures Marina's youthful determination as well as the toll of Alzheimer's. Highly recommended.more
Author Debra Dean does a masterful job in telling the story of Marina against the backdrop of the siege of Leningrad during World War II. Elderly Marina, whose memory is failing, recalls vividly a time in her life that is largely unknown to her grown children, a time when food grew nearly nonexistent, when homes were bombed, when life itself was jeopardized, and when Marina was one of hundreds who were charged with saving the treasured art in the Hermitage Museum. This well-researched novel will intrigue and enlighten the reader as Marina’s present life fades away into the memories of the past.more
Good premise but don't like chapters that segue back and forth though time. Also, ending was incomplete. Too many unanswered questions.more
Marina works at the Hermitage in Leningrad during World War II. Her fiancé Dmitri leaves to fight at the front in the war, while Marina is trapped in the Russian city during the Siege of Leningrad. She and her aunt and uncle must move into the Hermitage with dozens of others. They are all staving to death, trying only to survive. The secondary plot deals with Dmitri and Marina’s adult daughter Helen and her struggle with her parents’ declining health. Marina has Alzheimer’s and as she looses her recent memories, those long buried memories from the war come to the surface. The combination of the war story and modern day disconnect between children and their parents works well. Immigrants who survived horrific events during the war don’t often want to rehash their heartbreak, but their children may not understand how their current actions have been formed by their past experiences if they never share them. I felt like the book was a bit short. There are so many more details that could have been included. I loved learning about the real events that happened during the siege. It’s a fictional story, but the author did some excellent research. I had no idea about this whole part of WWII and I’m still curious about it. BOTTOM LINE: A short but powerful story of the Siege of Leningrad. Read it if you are interested in learning more about WWII in Russia. "Hunger has eaten away the veneer of civilization, and people are not themselves.""Over the years, they have grown together, their flesh and their thoughts twining so closely that he cannot imagine the person he might be apart from her." more
I greatly enjoyed this one. The themes involve memory, beauty, art, deprivation, love, the body and our physical needs, and the relationship between generations in a family. The author moves us back and forth in time from present day to the siege of Leningrad in the 1940's. It is a love story on many levels. Marina and Dimitri are childhood friends who fall in love and become engaged before he leaves for the front. She stays to protect the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum where she works and takes shelter. What ensues is inspiring and heartbreaking. While this story is being told, we also find the couple in their later years living in the United States and coming to terms with Marina's declining memory in which her starving time at the Hermitage is more present to her than the present. 4 starsmore
This debut novel is the 2012 selection for "If All Rochester Reads.....", and the March 2012 selection for my book club. Consequently, I will have the opportunity to hear the author speak in Rochester this week. This story is a beautifully blended, historically interesting,poignant tale of the siege of Leningrad and its impact on the Hermitage, its artwork and staff, and it is also the story of what it might be like on the inside of Alzheimer's. The author, Debra Dean, does an absolutely marvelous job of making the transitions between the past and the present, using events in either to trigger the mental shift from the past to the present of the protagonist, Marina.more
I have a hard time understanding all the 4-star ratings. It was difficult to stick with this book to the end. Parts of it were boring, all the detailed art in the museum, etc. It skipped back and forth from present to past too many times. The story was poignant and sad, and the trauma the Leningrad population suffered was well described. It was not my favorite read that's for sure.more
This is Debra Dean’s first novel but I certainly hope she writes more. She is very gifted and her humanity shines through this book.Marina was a docent at the Hermitage Museum just before World War II came to the doorstep ofLeningrad/St. Petersburg. Her boyfriend, Dmitri, asked her to marry him just before he was shipped off to the front and they spent one night together. As an employee of the museum, Marina and her uncle and aunt sheltered in the basement while the Germans shelled the city. Marina worked as long as it was possible to box up paintings and other treasures. When the galleries were empty she used to continue to recite her tour as she went through. One of the babushkas told her that she was making a memory palace and she convinced her to continue. Marina had to spend nights on the roof of the building to watch for fires. Usually she had a partner, but one night she was alone and she believed she made love with one of the gods whose statues lined the roof. Of course, by this time the siege of Leningrad was in full force and everyone was starving so perhaps it was a dream or a vision. As the cold winter months went by Marina and everyone else starved and froze. Many people died. Her uncle died first and then her aunt a month or so later.Marina lived, we know because the story also contains a present day story line in which Marina is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. She is soon going to attend her granddaughter’s wedding but she has trouble remembering who is getting married. She even has trouble recognizing her daughter Elena who comes to pick her and Dmitri up. However, she remembers clearly events from that terrible winter and she goes through her memory palace at will.Does the title refer to the paintings of the Hermitage, many of whom were madonnas painted by the great masters? Or is Marina one of the Madonnas? It could go either way or maybe both meanings apply.It was very interesting to me to read Dean’s take on Alzheimer’s Disease. My mother had this horrible affliction before her death. Dean apparently watched a beloved grandmother suffer from it. I guess we’ll never know exactly what the person with the disease thinks. Certainly in the early stages my mother knew something was wrong just as Marina did. I felt something similar to what Elena felt when the end came:Several years hence, when Marina’s body is finally winding down, Helen will feel no grief, only a quiet detachment, as though she is waiting for a bus—it is late and she is tired but she has nowhere she needs to be and it will get here when it gets here. She and Andrei and Naureen and the grandchildren have long since said their good-byes, and Marina herself has left…That’s the tragedy of Alzheimer’s; the loved one disappears before the body is gone. I was fortunate that my mother still knew me right up to the end but many are not so blessed. I hope we find a cure soon!more
The Madonnas of Leningrad. Debra Dean. 2007. This lovely, sad novel is the November selection for the Museum book club. Marina was a docent at the Hermitage Museum during the nightmarish German siege of Leningrad. She helped wrap the art works so they could be protected from the bombings as she watched her family slowly starve to death. At the urging of a older woman, she trained herself to remember the paintings in the museum and she would wander through the grand empty halls describing the paintings of the Old Masters, especially the Madonnas. After the war, she miraculously found her fiancé and they eventually found their way the United States and made a life there. We see Marina in Leningrad and today as she slowly falls in the confusion of Alzheimer’s, and the past and the present ooze together in her mind.more
This was a four-star book when I closed it's covers. In the two months I've since been pondering it, it's become a five-star book in my mind. Marina's story is told in the present. Her present in the Pacific Northwest, an elderly married woman attending her granddaughter's wedding; her present in Leningrad under The Siege. It is the merging and crashing of her two lives that make this story. As a young woman in Leningrad, she is working at The Hermitage Museum, among many who are frantically packing up the museum's treasures to be secreted away before anything happens to them. Most of the paintings are removed from their frames; the frames left hanging and the paintings packed among hundreds of thousands of the other holdings, on a train en route to somewhere safe. With that work done, their jobs are to take turns standing guard on the roof, and to try to remain alive, while slowly freezing and starving to death. There is nothing left now to distract them from the miseries of cold and hunger except their own internal resources. And so, as the world gets smaller and colder and dimmer, Marina notices, people are becoming fixated. Marina and Anya's fixation: Anya is helping Marina build a memory palace in the museum. “Someone must remember,” Anya says, “or it all disappears without a trace, and then they can say it never was.” So each morning, they get up early and the two women make their way slowly through the halls. They add a few more rooms each day, mentally restocking the Hermitage, painting by painting, statue by statue.Nikolsky's fixation: He sketches so incessantly that at the end of the day his fist will not unclench to release his pencil. The other night, he staged a showing of these drawings. … He had sketched interiors of the cellar and its residents, odd little drawings of their makeshift lodgings. Sketch after sketch showed the low vaulted ceilings crossed with pipes, the clutter of furniture, and the stark shadows cast by a single oil lamp. … One drawing showed merely a hand with three marble-sized pieces of bread resting in the palm. … “My intention was not to suggest anything but what is. These are not meant to be art. They are documentation, so that those who come later will know how we lived.”I found the history of the Hermitage during the siege to be a fascinating story, along with the glimpses of how people managed to survive during that time. Marina's present in her old age, suffering from Alzheimer's, gripped me as well. Whatever is eating her brain consumes only the fresher memories, the unripe moments. Her distant past is preserved, better than preserved. Moments that occurred in Leningrad sixty-some years ago reappear, vivid, plump, and perfumed. . . . The bond that had first brought them together as children existed whether they spoke of it or not, the bond of survivors. … She was his country and he hers. They were inseparable. Until now. She is leaving him, not all at once, which would be painful enough, but in a wrenching succession of separations. One moment she is here, and then she is gone again, and each journey takes her a little farther from his reach. He cannot follow her, and he wonders where she goes when she leaves.But it was the author's way of blending Marina's past and present, making them each the current thing in Marina's mind that kept haunting me. More distressing than the loss of words is the way that time contracts and fractures and drops her in unexpected places.Take, for instance, this selection: And looking around, one can see on the faces of the assembled family and guests the best of their humanity radiating a collective warmth around this fledgling young couple. There is music and tears and words. Commitment and love and cherish and community and honor.And music and more words. Olga Markhaeva recites poetry and Anya sings a song she remembers from her childhood, romantic and sweet. If Marina lives to be eighty, she things, she will never forget this wonderful night.The first two sentences are happening at her granddaughter's wedding, and the next three refer to something that happened sixty years ago in the bomb shelter in Leningrad. I think Ms. Dean did a masterful job of presenting a moment in history with a life unraveling mentally. I can just picture those thoughts of the disoriented happening something like that. More than picture it, I've begun to feel like that sometimes myself. Perhaps that's why this book spoke to me so strongly. Highly recommended for historical fiction buffs, especially if you know someone suffering from Alzheimer's.more
I enjoyed the flashbacks to the war, but thought that Marina's present-day life and her daughter Helen's life could have been more fleshed out.more
I found this on the sale shelf at the bookstore and enjoyed a second story about the siege of Leningrad from another perspective. This book follows Marina, an elderly woman falling into dementia. When she leaves the present she finds herself back in Leningrad where she worked at the Hermitage, a huge art museum. As the war came to Leningrad the employees packed away all the art and Marina memorized the entire museum. We learn about her past as her family does. I was completely enthralled by the story, both past and present.more
Although I read this book sometime ago, it still haunts me. This was a beautifully written book and a wonderful story. The parts of the story tie together nicely in the end.more
Beautiful debut novel about art and love and the painful journey that is Alzheimer's disease. The transitions from the present to the past were very skillfully handled, almost as if you could follow Marina's mind slipping from our reality to her own memories of the siege of Leningrad. As for the art, it just makes you want to get to St Petersburg on the next flight . I remember after my visit to the Hermitage I got a big Taschen book with reproductions of the best pieces in the collection but I don't have it in my Tokyo apartment. Well, thank the deities for Google images, because I enjoyed the book more actually seeing the art it describes. Was a lovely read, tinged with a bit of sadness. It is also very cinematic and I hope some day there's an adaptation.more
I learned of the siege of Leningrad some 35 years ago, when I first visited that city of wonders as a college student. I took it to heart 14 years later, when I returned with a group focused on spiritual connections. I have never been able to communicate to my fellow Americans the hope and sorrow that lodged in me as I walked among the endless mass graves of the siege’s victims, and tried to comprehend three years of entrapment in your home, purposefully cut off from food supply. Debra Dean has helped me tell and understand that story. She has couched it in the degenerating memory of a survivor, where it becomes the only thing Marina knows for sure, the deep past the only place she functions fully. Dean allows us to escape with Marina, from the material and familial comforts of age in America’s Pacific northwest in the 21st century, and the confusion and distress of dementia, into the bitter beauty of starvation in 1940s Russia, where Marina had duty and her heritage to feed her soul.Dean tells her stories with aching, lyrical beauty. Not all of the loose ends are tied up, not every story is finished. But we know what we need to know, and we understand that neat packages are among the victims of war. It is the beauty that kept Marina alive through the siege. It is the same beauty that gives her the strength to live on until the beauty of old is all that is left to her. It is the beauty, and Marina’s devotion to it, that draws us to her, moves us to celebrate her apparently unremarkable life. Marina, like the Madonna, whom the Russian Orthodox call the Theotokos, God-bearer, is the vessel of beauty and hope in the most profound devastation. She bears it to us through the siege of Leningrad, and perhaps most wonderfully through the siege of her fragile third life. Where Debra Dean learned that beauty I cannot guess, but I am grateful to her for giving us Marina.more
Debra Dean takes us on a journey in the mind of a woman who's living with rapidly deteriorating Alzheimer's. She can't remember the present, can't recognize her daughter anymore, and doesn't even realize how reliant she is on her husband now for everything. However, her memories of the past are so sharp and detailed, her present surroundings start to fade. As she fumbles her way around her daughter's visit and her granddaughter's wedding, her memories of the past introduce her to the person she was as a child in Russia, as a young woman who gets engaged the night before her boyfriend is sent to the front line to fight the Germans, a woman who, on her first visit to the Hermitage with her uncle, falls in love with art and later gets a job there giving tours, and who lived in an underground bunker during the war when the Germans started bombing her city. With an elderly woman who worked as a guard at the Hermitage, she builds a memory palace of the art she loved walking past, looking at. The descriptions of the art are so detailed they paint beautiful and amazing pictures in the reader's own mind. A young man who found her when she was lost said to a doctor who claimed she was rambling because she was in shock, "She was showing me the world."Beautiful. Sad, touching and beautiful.more
The book starts off with part of a museum tour, and then quickly transports us to the story of an older woman, Marina, and her struggles with the advancement of Alzheimer's. We discover that Marina is the one giving the tour of the Hermitage in Leningrad that is interspersed throughout. As World War II rages, the museum employees, of which Marina is one, are packing up the artifacts to be shipped someplace safe. She is determined to remember the museum as it was, and begins to use the Hermitage as her memory palace. In the other storyline of the current day, Marina becomes more and more confused by daily life, and the past begins to blur into her present.I found the downward spiral of Alzheimer's affecting - in fact, the first descriptions of Marina's experience of life were heartbreaking. The World War II storyline was interesting as well, though I was a little lost when I didn't have my computer next to me to look up the artwork she was describing. That was one, but not the only, reason it was harder for me to get involved with the Hermitage sections.more
A sad and beautiful story. Amazing that the author had never set foot in the Hermitage. Having lost my mother to dementia I really emphasized with the characters dealing with the "loss" of their mother and wife.more
Beautiful art, the heartbreak of Alzheimer's, the hardship and suffering of war, the family--all are skillfully evoked in this fairly short but very touching novel. I loved it.more
Reviewed this for Publishers' Weekly and really enjoyed it. The interplay between the present and the past is deft and meaningful, unlike what we see in some novels with a modern frame for a historical story. The historical plot is interesting and the emotional development in the present feels genuine.more
This book moves back & forth between Marina's life in 1940's Leningrad and 40 some years later when she is struggling with Alzheimers. An interesting portrayal of that bleak time at the Hermitage and the survival of she and her husband Dimitri. The ending left me in the air & wishing it could have been better for them. A pretty good read.more
Debra Dean had a wonderful idea for a novel, but the novel itself never lived up to my expectations for it. The setting, a museum in Leningrad during wartime, was new to me, and all the details - the food rationing, the artwork, the human misery during that time - were fascinating. Sadly though, the characters never felt as three-dimensional as the setting; the paintings felt more well rounded than the people walking among them. A beautiful title, a beautiful cover, and a beautiful idea for a novel---surely with just a little more editing, a little more work on the part of the author, an exceptional novel would have been published, rather than just this rather run-of-the-mill book.more
A very interesting story of the seige of Leningrad during WWII.  more
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Reviews

This was a half-book. A story of an elderly woman who is suffering from Alzheimer's with her husband and children coping the best that they can. I appreciate the author's idea of flashbacks and retained memories, but I felt like I was never in the loop with what was happening. For some of the book I couldn't tell if it was Marina's actual memories or just a telling of her past. Most of the individuals were not fully developed or just unlikable in my opinion.

Being at the bombing of Leningrad and caring for the paintings at the Hermitage Museum, is where Marina's story was at its best. However, many questions are opened up and then never fully developed.

There is a lot of talk about individual paintings in the Museum and their importance to history but then it is never tied back to the story of Marina's escape from Russia, her marriage and her eventual bout with Alzheimer's. Why did she memorize the paintings, did it help bring them back after the war, how did she just happen upon her future husband at a prison camp, what happened to her uncle's children, etc. etc.

Missing too much to enjoy.more
The book is about a woman, in the present who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Her short term memory is shot, but her long term memory, specifically relating to the time she was a docent at the Hermitage (and when she was sheltered there during The Siege of Leningrad,) is still sharp. The author does a great job of describing what someone with Alzheimer's might be going through and; the story has it's moments of triumph and poignancy. It's similar to WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (by Sara Gruen) and THE HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET (by Jaimie Ford) in that the narrative alternates between the protag in an earlier time and a "now" time when they are old; but TMOL has a little more dignity inherent to it in that it's not as obviously emotionally provocative. I spent quite a bit of time at The Hermitage Museum web-site, checking out the art and architecture mentioned in the book. The web-site is excellent, with high resolution digital images and virtual tours; but wow! how I would love to see the place and the art in person!more
I think I may have only given this book 3 stars if it hadn't been for the way this book tied into my memories of the Hermitage. I was in Russia a bit over a year ago now. I love Russia, and my month long trip was a dream come true. I spent a couple days in the Hermitage, and it was not nearly enough. I read this book not because of Russia, but because I am reading for the Mental Health Awareness Challenge, and this book was towards Alzheimer's. I wish I got more of the emotions and feelings about this women going through her disease, but what I got was lovely as well. I really love how the women can see the beauty in everything now---- dust floating in the air, the sun rays coming in. How many of us take the time to appreciate the beauty life has to offer?

I think the author did a great job in portraying the main character slipping in and out of reality. I really enjoy (and I use this lightly because it's heart breaking) how she did a particular scene where the character feels like she is reliving her past and present at the same moment. The book in general is beautifully written. Her descriptions and word choice brings about a whole host of emotions throughout the novel.

Despite this, the book feels disjointed and choppy, but this has to be taken with a grain of salt because it is supposed to be. The women is going deeper and deeper into her disease and so one moment she is with everyone and the next reliving her past with the siege of Leningrad.

I'd like to know more about things in the story and incidents that took place; there's so much to the story that I'd like to continue. I feel like this could be my real life, begging my grandmother to tell me more stories and yet she simply does not or does not remember. I find it a huge shame, though understandable, that in this book the children know nothing of their parents' life during the war.

Overall I think the book is good. I would've liked more though. But I still recommend this book--- especially if anyone has visited the Hermitage before. It's amazing how a few words the author write brings up clear memories of things I've seen in the museum. I am not a huge art fan, so I looked, but didn't study most of the paintings. I love the statues, and walls & ceilings, the Egyptian art, the armor, and I even clearly remember the paintings of the dead game---- I think I was particularly morbid back then. Everything I LOVED was of death, or the cut open game, or whatnot. I was drawn in by the portrayal of these things that were not beautiful but rather haunting or so ordinary that it took someone taking to time to portray it to make you see the beauty in it. Anyways, I'm rambling about things other than the book now. I do hope others read the book to experience these things as well.more
Count me in with those who really liked this book. I like the way the author showed me how Marina felt: there were passages which left me momentarily uncertain as to where and "when" I was, much as Marina was experiencing with her loss of memory. There are unanswered questions in the book: Andrei's birth, how the family end up in America. But, Marina, I am sure, can't explain these gaps. Again, the author helped me to genuinely empathise with her character through her style of writing.I also loved the imagery in the book: heating up bottles of ink with your hands; frames without pictures.And, I liked the way the characters searched for meaning in their lives: Uncle Viktor completing his book; Marina's Aunt planning an entire meal around an anticipated pat of butter; remembering the paintings was said to be the only thing keeping Anya alive. This reminded me of Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning"The way the characters wept over small things long after they stopped crying for the dead spoke about the need for people to feel some measure of control in thier lives. So, they mourned that over which they felt they had some control, and not over what was beyond them.I've read some non-fiction about the war years in Russia (such as All Hell Let Loose by Max Hastings), and found the portrayal of life in Leningrad very true to life. I look forward to reading more books by Debra Dean.more
The paintings in the Hermitage were evacuated shortly before the Siege of Leningrad. Marina commits them to memory (her “Memory Palace”) to sustain her spirit over that three year period. This is how Dean brings these paintings to life for the reader. You will not want to read this book without summoning the actual paintings on your computer screen. They are really the whole point of the book.One might even say that the advertising term, Borrowed Interest, applies to Madonnas of Leningrad, so central are the paintings to the emotional appeal of the story. Through Marina's eyes, we see an introspective Madonna by Simone Martini, the almost adolescent wonderment of da Vinci's Benois Madonna, and the ripe forms and rippling surfaces of a Madonna by Crannach the Elder. Marina's memories form a sensual tour of the Hermitage's paintings. My advice – make a list of all the paintings in Marina's “Memory Palace.” Then go back and look up the actual paintings. It is in these moments that Marina will seem most real.The story drifts between World War II and the present-day, suggesting the mental drift Marina suffers due to progressing Alzheimer's Disease. It also points out the rich and private lives we live apart from our families – spouses, siblings, and even children. The parts of the book that soar are the dream-like memories. By night the blimps in the sky “swim like enormous white whales through a dark sea. She is swimming with the whales.” This lyricism contrasts with the horror and deprivation endured by the starving inhabitants of besieged Leningrad. Unfortunately, the present-day segments of the story, while poignant, feel flat compared to the richness of the “Memory Palace.” Read this book if you love art history.more
Seldom do I read a page turner like this novel, so beautifully written and artfully constructed.Marina is a young Russian woman who is a guide in the Hermitage when WWII and the advancing Nazis threaten. She and her fellow workers must bundle all the hundreds of art-filled rooms’ objects into cases to be shipped out of the city for safe-keeping, leaving the museum bare to serve as a bomb shelter to the workers and their families.In chapters that alternate between that past and Marina’s American present, in which she is deteriorating from advanced Alzheimer’s, we experience the beauty of the Hermitage through Marina’s interior reminiscences as she builds a memory palace of the exhibition rooms and peoples the now empty walls and frames with the paintings – so many of them various Madonnas -- and furnishings that have been whisked away. The chapters segue into each other, merging past and present, like halves of a peach brought together to make a whole fruit.By the end of the novel, Marina’s daughter, Helen, tries to discover this unknown woman who birthed her but kept her own past private by sketching her repeatedly as Marina’s mental and physical wanderings off decline into the abyss of total loss and death.But in life, Marina preserved the world’s beauty unhoused from the museum, was able to “show” it to a group of young cadets, and to the last, as an old woman in the US, again “show” it to a young construction worker who discovers her asleep in the fireplace of the mansion he’s building. Marina takes his arm, points in all the directions of this palace he is constructing and says, "Look!” as if showing him the beauty in the world from within the suggestion of the future "memory palace" under construction. In a way, Marina becomes a Madonna who is but one of myriad works of art that we all are in the museum of the world. One of the most masterful novels I’ve had the pleasure to read this year – complete and satisfying, far-roving and domestic, a total examination of life, art, suffering, perseverance, and love.more
A haunting atmosphere inhabits this novel as an elderly woman with Alzheimer's remembers her youth in war-torn Leningrad. Marina was once a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum, where she worked surrounded by masterpieces of art, and on the eve of World War Two, she helped pack away these masterpieces for safekeeping. As the German army lay siege to Leningrad, the empty Hermitage became the home to Marina and her family, where they lived in the cellar, safe from bombs but not the shortages accompanied by war. Marina spends her time remembering the museum as it was before the war, memories that remain sixty years later, even as others are wiped away.more
A beautifully constructed tale of an elderly woman with Alzheimer's who remembers her past much more clearly than her present. Marina is attending a family wedding but she rarely recognizes her own daughter, much less the young couple of honor. Marina's present slips easily into the past, when she was a young woman during the siege of Leningrad, removing famous works of art in the Hermitage Museum from their frames for storage and protection from the ravages of war. She endeavors to remember them all, especially various depictions of the Madonna, as a way of enduring the incredibly harsh conditions of living in the museum's cellar. Dean weaves past and present brilliantly. Though numerous descriptions of pieces of art that may be unfamiliar to the reader can grow tiresome, the author's spare and delicate language perfectly captures Marina's youthful determination as well as the toll of Alzheimer's. Highly recommended.more
Author Debra Dean does a masterful job in telling the story of Marina against the backdrop of the siege of Leningrad during World War II. Elderly Marina, whose memory is failing, recalls vividly a time in her life that is largely unknown to her grown children, a time when food grew nearly nonexistent, when homes were bombed, when life itself was jeopardized, and when Marina was one of hundreds who were charged with saving the treasured art in the Hermitage Museum. This well-researched novel will intrigue and enlighten the reader as Marina’s present life fades away into the memories of the past.more
Good premise but don't like chapters that segue back and forth though time. Also, ending was incomplete. Too many unanswered questions.more
Marina works at the Hermitage in Leningrad during World War II. Her fiancé Dmitri leaves to fight at the front in the war, while Marina is trapped in the Russian city during the Siege of Leningrad. She and her aunt and uncle must move into the Hermitage with dozens of others. They are all staving to death, trying only to survive. The secondary plot deals with Dmitri and Marina’s adult daughter Helen and her struggle with her parents’ declining health. Marina has Alzheimer’s and as she looses her recent memories, those long buried memories from the war come to the surface. The combination of the war story and modern day disconnect between children and their parents works well. Immigrants who survived horrific events during the war don’t often want to rehash their heartbreak, but their children may not understand how their current actions have been formed by their past experiences if they never share them. I felt like the book was a bit short. There are so many more details that could have been included. I loved learning about the real events that happened during the siege. It’s a fictional story, but the author did some excellent research. I had no idea about this whole part of WWII and I’m still curious about it. BOTTOM LINE: A short but powerful story of the Siege of Leningrad. Read it if you are interested in learning more about WWII in Russia. "Hunger has eaten away the veneer of civilization, and people are not themselves.""Over the years, they have grown together, their flesh and their thoughts twining so closely that he cannot imagine the person he might be apart from her." more
I greatly enjoyed this one. The themes involve memory, beauty, art, deprivation, love, the body and our physical needs, and the relationship between generations in a family. The author moves us back and forth in time from present day to the siege of Leningrad in the 1940's. It is a love story on many levels. Marina and Dimitri are childhood friends who fall in love and become engaged before he leaves for the front. She stays to protect the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum where she works and takes shelter. What ensues is inspiring and heartbreaking. While this story is being told, we also find the couple in their later years living in the United States and coming to terms with Marina's declining memory in which her starving time at the Hermitage is more present to her than the present. 4 starsmore
This debut novel is the 2012 selection for "If All Rochester Reads.....", and the March 2012 selection for my book club. Consequently, I will have the opportunity to hear the author speak in Rochester this week. This story is a beautifully blended, historically interesting,poignant tale of the siege of Leningrad and its impact on the Hermitage, its artwork and staff, and it is also the story of what it might be like on the inside of Alzheimer's. The author, Debra Dean, does an absolutely marvelous job of making the transitions between the past and the present, using events in either to trigger the mental shift from the past to the present of the protagonist, Marina.more
I have a hard time understanding all the 4-star ratings. It was difficult to stick with this book to the end. Parts of it were boring, all the detailed art in the museum, etc. It skipped back and forth from present to past too many times. The story was poignant and sad, and the trauma the Leningrad population suffered was well described. It was not my favorite read that's for sure.more
This is Debra Dean’s first novel but I certainly hope she writes more. She is very gifted and her humanity shines through this book.Marina was a docent at the Hermitage Museum just before World War II came to the doorstep ofLeningrad/St. Petersburg. Her boyfriend, Dmitri, asked her to marry him just before he was shipped off to the front and they spent one night together. As an employee of the museum, Marina and her uncle and aunt sheltered in the basement while the Germans shelled the city. Marina worked as long as it was possible to box up paintings and other treasures. When the galleries were empty she used to continue to recite her tour as she went through. One of the babushkas told her that she was making a memory palace and she convinced her to continue. Marina had to spend nights on the roof of the building to watch for fires. Usually she had a partner, but one night she was alone and she believed she made love with one of the gods whose statues lined the roof. Of course, by this time the siege of Leningrad was in full force and everyone was starving so perhaps it was a dream or a vision. As the cold winter months went by Marina and everyone else starved and froze. Many people died. Her uncle died first and then her aunt a month or so later.Marina lived, we know because the story also contains a present day story line in which Marina is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. She is soon going to attend her granddaughter’s wedding but she has trouble remembering who is getting married. She even has trouble recognizing her daughter Elena who comes to pick her and Dmitri up. However, she remembers clearly events from that terrible winter and she goes through her memory palace at will.Does the title refer to the paintings of the Hermitage, many of whom were madonnas painted by the great masters? Or is Marina one of the Madonnas? It could go either way or maybe both meanings apply.It was very interesting to me to read Dean’s take on Alzheimer’s Disease. My mother had this horrible affliction before her death. Dean apparently watched a beloved grandmother suffer from it. I guess we’ll never know exactly what the person with the disease thinks. Certainly in the early stages my mother knew something was wrong just as Marina did. I felt something similar to what Elena felt when the end came:Several years hence, when Marina’s body is finally winding down, Helen will feel no grief, only a quiet detachment, as though she is waiting for a bus—it is late and she is tired but she has nowhere she needs to be and it will get here when it gets here. She and Andrei and Naureen and the grandchildren have long since said their good-byes, and Marina herself has left…That’s the tragedy of Alzheimer’s; the loved one disappears before the body is gone. I was fortunate that my mother still knew me right up to the end but many are not so blessed. I hope we find a cure soon!more
The Madonnas of Leningrad. Debra Dean. 2007. This lovely, sad novel is the November selection for the Museum book club. Marina was a docent at the Hermitage Museum during the nightmarish German siege of Leningrad. She helped wrap the art works so they could be protected from the bombings as she watched her family slowly starve to death. At the urging of a older woman, she trained herself to remember the paintings in the museum and she would wander through the grand empty halls describing the paintings of the Old Masters, especially the Madonnas. After the war, she miraculously found her fiancé and they eventually found their way the United States and made a life there. We see Marina in Leningrad and today as she slowly falls in the confusion of Alzheimer’s, and the past and the present ooze together in her mind.more
This was a four-star book when I closed it's covers. In the two months I've since been pondering it, it's become a five-star book in my mind. Marina's story is told in the present. Her present in the Pacific Northwest, an elderly married woman attending her granddaughter's wedding; her present in Leningrad under The Siege. It is the merging and crashing of her two lives that make this story. As a young woman in Leningrad, she is working at The Hermitage Museum, among many who are frantically packing up the museum's treasures to be secreted away before anything happens to them. Most of the paintings are removed from their frames; the frames left hanging and the paintings packed among hundreds of thousands of the other holdings, on a train en route to somewhere safe. With that work done, their jobs are to take turns standing guard on the roof, and to try to remain alive, while slowly freezing and starving to death. There is nothing left now to distract them from the miseries of cold and hunger except their own internal resources. And so, as the world gets smaller and colder and dimmer, Marina notices, people are becoming fixated. Marina and Anya's fixation: Anya is helping Marina build a memory palace in the museum. “Someone must remember,” Anya says, “or it all disappears without a trace, and then they can say it never was.” So each morning, they get up early and the two women make their way slowly through the halls. They add a few more rooms each day, mentally restocking the Hermitage, painting by painting, statue by statue.Nikolsky's fixation: He sketches so incessantly that at the end of the day his fist will not unclench to release his pencil. The other night, he staged a showing of these drawings. … He had sketched interiors of the cellar and its residents, odd little drawings of their makeshift lodgings. Sketch after sketch showed the low vaulted ceilings crossed with pipes, the clutter of furniture, and the stark shadows cast by a single oil lamp. … One drawing showed merely a hand with three marble-sized pieces of bread resting in the palm. … “My intention was not to suggest anything but what is. These are not meant to be art. They are documentation, so that those who come later will know how we lived.”I found the history of the Hermitage during the siege to be a fascinating story, along with the glimpses of how people managed to survive during that time. Marina's present in her old age, suffering from Alzheimer's, gripped me as well. Whatever is eating her brain consumes only the fresher memories, the unripe moments. Her distant past is preserved, better than preserved. Moments that occurred in Leningrad sixty-some years ago reappear, vivid, plump, and perfumed. . . . The bond that had first brought them together as children existed whether they spoke of it or not, the bond of survivors. … She was his country and he hers. They were inseparable. Until now. She is leaving him, not all at once, which would be painful enough, but in a wrenching succession of separations. One moment she is here, and then she is gone again, and each journey takes her a little farther from his reach. He cannot follow her, and he wonders where she goes when she leaves.But it was the author's way of blending Marina's past and present, making them each the current thing in Marina's mind that kept haunting me. More distressing than the loss of words is the way that time contracts and fractures and drops her in unexpected places.Take, for instance, this selection: And looking around, one can see on the faces of the assembled family and guests the best of their humanity radiating a collective warmth around this fledgling young couple. There is music and tears and words. Commitment and love and cherish and community and honor.And music and more words. Olga Markhaeva recites poetry and Anya sings a song she remembers from her childhood, romantic and sweet. If Marina lives to be eighty, she things, she will never forget this wonderful night.The first two sentences are happening at her granddaughter's wedding, and the next three refer to something that happened sixty years ago in the bomb shelter in Leningrad. I think Ms. Dean did a masterful job of presenting a moment in history with a life unraveling mentally. I can just picture those thoughts of the disoriented happening something like that. More than picture it, I've begun to feel like that sometimes myself. Perhaps that's why this book spoke to me so strongly. Highly recommended for historical fiction buffs, especially if you know someone suffering from Alzheimer's.more
I enjoyed the flashbacks to the war, but thought that Marina's present-day life and her daughter Helen's life could have been more fleshed out.more
I found this on the sale shelf at the bookstore and enjoyed a second story about the siege of Leningrad from another perspective. This book follows Marina, an elderly woman falling into dementia. When she leaves the present she finds herself back in Leningrad where she worked at the Hermitage, a huge art museum. As the war came to Leningrad the employees packed away all the art and Marina memorized the entire museum. We learn about her past as her family does. I was completely enthralled by the story, both past and present.more
Although I read this book sometime ago, it still haunts me. This was a beautifully written book and a wonderful story. The parts of the story tie together nicely in the end.more
Beautiful debut novel about art and love and the painful journey that is Alzheimer's disease. The transitions from the present to the past were very skillfully handled, almost as if you could follow Marina's mind slipping from our reality to her own memories of the siege of Leningrad. As for the art, it just makes you want to get to St Petersburg on the next flight . I remember after my visit to the Hermitage I got a big Taschen book with reproductions of the best pieces in the collection but I don't have it in my Tokyo apartment. Well, thank the deities for Google images, because I enjoyed the book more actually seeing the art it describes. Was a lovely read, tinged with a bit of sadness. It is also very cinematic and I hope some day there's an adaptation.more
I learned of the siege of Leningrad some 35 years ago, when I first visited that city of wonders as a college student. I took it to heart 14 years later, when I returned with a group focused on spiritual connections. I have never been able to communicate to my fellow Americans the hope and sorrow that lodged in me as I walked among the endless mass graves of the siege’s victims, and tried to comprehend three years of entrapment in your home, purposefully cut off from food supply. Debra Dean has helped me tell and understand that story. She has couched it in the degenerating memory of a survivor, where it becomes the only thing Marina knows for sure, the deep past the only place she functions fully. Dean allows us to escape with Marina, from the material and familial comforts of age in America’s Pacific northwest in the 21st century, and the confusion and distress of dementia, into the bitter beauty of starvation in 1940s Russia, where Marina had duty and her heritage to feed her soul.Dean tells her stories with aching, lyrical beauty. Not all of the loose ends are tied up, not every story is finished. But we know what we need to know, and we understand that neat packages are among the victims of war. It is the beauty that kept Marina alive through the siege. It is the same beauty that gives her the strength to live on until the beauty of old is all that is left to her. It is the beauty, and Marina’s devotion to it, that draws us to her, moves us to celebrate her apparently unremarkable life. Marina, like the Madonna, whom the Russian Orthodox call the Theotokos, God-bearer, is the vessel of beauty and hope in the most profound devastation. She bears it to us through the siege of Leningrad, and perhaps most wonderfully through the siege of her fragile third life. Where Debra Dean learned that beauty I cannot guess, but I am grateful to her for giving us Marina.more
Debra Dean takes us on a journey in the mind of a woman who's living with rapidly deteriorating Alzheimer's. She can't remember the present, can't recognize her daughter anymore, and doesn't even realize how reliant she is on her husband now for everything. However, her memories of the past are so sharp and detailed, her present surroundings start to fade. As she fumbles her way around her daughter's visit and her granddaughter's wedding, her memories of the past introduce her to the person she was as a child in Russia, as a young woman who gets engaged the night before her boyfriend is sent to the front line to fight the Germans, a woman who, on her first visit to the Hermitage with her uncle, falls in love with art and later gets a job there giving tours, and who lived in an underground bunker during the war when the Germans started bombing her city. With an elderly woman who worked as a guard at the Hermitage, she builds a memory palace of the art she loved walking past, looking at. The descriptions of the art are so detailed they paint beautiful and amazing pictures in the reader's own mind. A young man who found her when she was lost said to a doctor who claimed she was rambling because she was in shock, "She was showing me the world."Beautiful. Sad, touching and beautiful.more
The book starts off with part of a museum tour, and then quickly transports us to the story of an older woman, Marina, and her struggles with the advancement of Alzheimer's. We discover that Marina is the one giving the tour of the Hermitage in Leningrad that is interspersed throughout. As World War II rages, the museum employees, of which Marina is one, are packing up the artifacts to be shipped someplace safe. She is determined to remember the museum as it was, and begins to use the Hermitage as her memory palace. In the other storyline of the current day, Marina becomes more and more confused by daily life, and the past begins to blur into her present.I found the downward spiral of Alzheimer's affecting - in fact, the first descriptions of Marina's experience of life were heartbreaking. The World War II storyline was interesting as well, though I was a little lost when I didn't have my computer next to me to look up the artwork she was describing. That was one, but not the only, reason it was harder for me to get involved with the Hermitage sections.more
A sad and beautiful story. Amazing that the author had never set foot in the Hermitage. Having lost my mother to dementia I really emphasized with the characters dealing with the "loss" of their mother and wife.more
Beautiful art, the heartbreak of Alzheimer's, the hardship and suffering of war, the family--all are skillfully evoked in this fairly short but very touching novel. I loved it.more
Reviewed this for Publishers' Weekly and really enjoyed it. The interplay between the present and the past is deft and meaningful, unlike what we see in some novels with a modern frame for a historical story. The historical plot is interesting and the emotional development in the present feels genuine.more
This book moves back & forth between Marina's life in 1940's Leningrad and 40 some years later when she is struggling with Alzheimers. An interesting portrayal of that bleak time at the Hermitage and the survival of she and her husband Dimitri. The ending left me in the air & wishing it could have been better for them. A pretty good read.more
Debra Dean had a wonderful idea for a novel, but the novel itself never lived up to my expectations for it. The setting, a museum in Leningrad during wartime, was new to me, and all the details - the food rationing, the artwork, the human misery during that time - were fascinating. Sadly though, the characters never felt as three-dimensional as the setting; the paintings felt more well rounded than the people walking among them. A beautiful title, a beautiful cover, and a beautiful idea for a novel---surely with just a little more editing, a little more work on the part of the author, an exceptional novel would have been published, rather than just this rather run-of-the-mill book.more
A very interesting story of the seige of Leningrad during WWII.  more
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