The Madonnas of Leningrad
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“An extraordinary debut, a deeply lovely novel that evokes with uncommon deftness the terrible, heartbreaking beauty that is life in wartime. Like the glorious ghosts of the paintings in the Hermitage that lie at the heart of the story, Dean’s exquisite prose shimmers with a haunting glow, illuminating us to the notion that art itself is perhaps our most necessary nourishment. A superbly graceful novel.” — Chang-Rae Lee, New York Times Bestselling author of Aloft and Native Speaker
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. . . .
From Publishers Weekly
© Publishers Weekly
I wish she'd gone deeper
The idea of the format of the book is unique - time hopping is commonplace now, and so readers can follow that along with the characters-health hop. Given the Importance of the theme - aging - this novel places on the protagonists illness, we appreciate the structure of the storytelling. But, in all aspects of the book, I think Dean was a bit lazy. She flirts with the difficult, never fully engaging it. The son's parentage, life after the war, how Marina feels about the illness, why Helen gives up her life, how Dimitri experienced the war, why the boys got a tour and what impact it had beyond those moments, what happened to the neighbors....
Why call it the madonnas, when mothers were not so significant to Marina?
Madonnas of Leningrad
I loved this book- it left some things unanswered- at least in my mind- what happened with the "god" who impregnated her- it just didn't seem to be explained or fit in to the story.Also it end too abruptly- like there was a dealine to get it on line and she just ended it.
Madonnas of Leningrad
Enjoyed it very much. Art, Russian history, Alzheimer's . Very interesting read once you accept the bouncing between past and present.