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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 Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061747182
List price: $10.99
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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.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Survivor of the Siege of St. Petersburg, now living in Seattle attending her granddaughter's wedding, vividly remembers the first year of the siege and the paintings removed from the museum. Vivid description of memory loss.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Survivor of the Siege of St. Petersburg, now living in Seattle attending her granddaughter's wedding, vividly remembers the first year of the siege and the paintings removed from the museum. Vivid description of memory loss.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
As one with Alzheimer's in my family, this certainly struck a chord. The combination of the history, human interest, family, and art made this book a terrific read.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A story within a story: 82 year old Marina is slipping into the void of dementia. As she does so, she is taken back to early adulthood where she worked and lived at The Hermitage during the siege of Leningrad during WWII. There is irony in that during the siege in 1941, she used her memory to recreate the Hermitage as it was before as a means to endure the hardships of loss and starvation. In the current day, she returns to that event and those memories, particularly a collection of Madonna paintings as well as others, as her mind slips away from her.A well crafted compact book done in under 228 pages.
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