The Madonnas of Leningrad

The Madonnas of LeningradBit By Bit, The Ravages Of Age Are Eroding Marina S Grip On The Everyday And While The Elderly Russian Woman Cannot Hold On To Fresh Memories The Details Of Her Grown Children S Lives, The Approaching Wedding Of Her Grandchild Her Distant Past Is Preserved Vivid Images That Rise Unbidden Of Her Youth In War Torn LeningradIn The Fall Of , The German Army Approached The Outskirts Of Leningrad, Signaling The Beginning Of What Would Become A Long And Torturous Siege During The Ensuing Months, The City S Inhabitants Would Brave Starvation And The Bitter Cold, All While Fending Off The Constant German Onslaught Marina, Then A Tour Guide At The Hermitage Museum, Along With Other Staff Members, Was Instructed To Take Down The Museum S Priceless Masterpieces For Safekeeping, Yet Leave The Frames Hanging Empty On The Walls A Symbol Of The Artworks Eventual Return To Hold On To Sanity When The Luftwaffe S Bombs Began To Fall, She Burned To Memory, Brushstroke By Brushstroke, These Exquisite Artworks The Nude Figures Of Women, The Angels, The Serene Madonnas That Had So Shortly Before Gazed Down Upon Her She Used Them To Furnish A Memory Palace, A Personal Hermitage In Her Mind To Which She Retreated To Escape Terror, Hunger, And Encroaching Death A Refuge That Would Stay Buried Deep Within Her, Until She Needed It Once

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  • Paperback
  • 228 pages
  • The Madonnas of Leningrad
  • Debra Dean
  • English
  • 11 March 2017
  • 9780060825317

10 thoughts on “The Madonnas of Leningrad

  1. says:

    I really didn t read this book I was having some visual problems which made it impossible for me to read for a time The Madonnas of Leningrad was our Book club choice for the month of January and it was not available in audio I asked my sister Jane, who was staying with me for the holidays if she would read it for me and tell me about it She loves to read and I thought she would enjoy it A beautiful thing happened My sister told me the story in such detail and with such emotion that the characters became real to me She loved the book and so did I During her story telling sessions we shed tears as she walked me through the scenes of Leningrad and the Hermitage Museum during the Nazi siege Together we were so touched by the strength of the women in the story.My sister has gone through some difficult times recently and in her search for healing has been considering ways that she can be of service to her community in Alabama As she finished telling the book to me by reading the last few pages aloud I was so moved I said to her as she closed the book Jane, I think you have found your calling She tilted her head and gave me a questioning look Doing what you ve done for me, for the blind or the elderly , I said Jane s eyes filled with tears as she said, You re right, I have The characters of this incredible story will stay with me and influence how I see and remember the beauty around me My sisters charitable act of reading and telling this heroic saga will remain in my memory palace forever as well.

  2. says:

    This is a stunning novel Marina is a woman in her 80 s about to attend her granddaughter s wedding near her home in Seattle Her mind is failing, however, and she is transported back to other times in her life, most particularly to the time when, as a young woman, she worked at the Hermitage The joy she took in her work there was countered by the horror of remaining while Germans laid siege to Leningrad It was the most intense period of her life, both horrifying and magical, and it is to this that she returns The paintings were removed to preserve them from the invaders, but Marina memorizes as many as she can, constructing a memory palace She escapes to her personal palace when pursued by the danger of incoming ordinance, cold, hunger, and, much later, age and dementia Dean s depiction of the horrors of a war time Hermitage is chilling, yet beautiful It is impressive that this is her first novel It is a wonder, beautiful in its structure as well as in its imagery This is a must read.

  3. says:

    When I allot the stars I go by my gut feeling, but I do try to be restrictive When you have just finished a book and think of all the things you liked about it, you tend to give the book too many stars If you do this, a four or five star book just doesn t mean anything So this gets three stars.I DO like this book A lot I liked the wonderful description of the Hermitage and the paintings there Sometimes when you take a guided tour of a museum and you get a guide who really knows their stuff, they make the paintings come alive You find out so much about the painting a whole other world is revealed I can count only about 4 or 5 times I have experienced this and it wasn t when I visited the Hermitage This author did this with the paintings and with the buildings of the Hermitage It is amazing that the author had not even been in the Hermitage before she wrote the book A second important theme of this book is Alzheimer s My father had Alzheimer s and I think the author portrayed now it affects both the family and the individual with the disease very, very well Very accurately How frightening it is for the patient when they are at the stage that they recognize their confusion How the family members feel when someone very important to you is no longer there , then doesn t know who you are and then finally just lies there The beauty of the world around the patient, seen through the eyes of the patient, albeit distorted, is also well depicted Who cares if it is distorted it makes the world of the confused patient wonderful And is it REALLY distorted the world is beautiful if we just pay attention and look at it Some patients react this way to bits of the world around them.The third theme, which maybe it is only me that sees, is how members of a family often really do not know each other This is true even in families that discuss everything SOME things are just not discussed Somethings are too difficult Some people just don t feel comfortable exposing themselves, while others will discuss anything and everything too pieces People are different Nevertheless, it was this that bothered me about the book This issue is only very lightly brushed upon More could have been done with this theme That is why the book gets three rather than four stars I think that as weeks pass I will remember this book as an I liked it book Many people say they want stars for books I don t it all gets too complicated then Terrible books, OK books, books you liked, books you really liked and just amazing books, these terms are very easy to grasp and all stays nice and simple That was quite a blab I forgot to say this is a true story The author didn t build it from scratch, but hey she pulled it all together and made a story of it Maybe that is why I liked it so much, b c it was kind of true

  4. says:

    I reviewed this book for Harper Collins Canada, here s what I said The Madonnas of Leningrad is a lyrical and elegant novel about Marina, a young tour guide at the Hermitage Museum, during the siege of Leningrad in World War Two and her loosing battle with Alzheimer s in present day Seattle The novel shifts smoothly back and forth from Marina s battles in Leningrad with starvation and bitter cold and her present day battle with Alzheimer s, comparing and contrasting the two During the siege, Marina memorized every last detail of every painting in the museum, in an effort to keep her own sanity Marina isn t able to hold on the fresh memories but remembers her horrify days during the siege and the paintings in the Hermitage Museum Dean does a good job comparing the past with the present and describing the breath taking details of the paintings Though she mentions that Marina s fianc , Dmitri, is captured and brought to a German prison camp, Dean too quickly brushed over Marina s and Dmitri s reunion in Germany and we never know how Marina ended up in Germany None the less, this short book packs a big punch and will not disappoint Debra Dean is a new author with lots of potential I can t wait to see what she writes next

  5. says:

    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.

  6. says:

    I found this awfully dull at times Not one of my favorites.

  7. says:

    I am not a big fan of Mom Fiction and that is the specific sub genre that I would put this book in The strong point of this work was the style that it was written in Take an 80 year old Russian immigrant who suffers from Dementia and watch her have flashbacks to her youth at the Hermitage in Leningrad during the siege of 41 This is all happening as her daughter is planning to take her to her nieces wedding Yes, this is where the mom fiction comes in The book spends most of the time with the daughter, Helen dwelling on her wasted adulthood of being a wife and mom, now recently divorced at a crossroads in her life She tries throughout this novel to find out about her mother and father s past, which they both conveniently say nothing to her about Yes live in denial about the past, yet watch it affect the daughter and her choices The 80 year old mother gets lost while entranced in one of her memories, which leads to a unique ending.

  8. says:

    In Leningrad as a young woman, memories kept Marina alive during the siege and now a memory eating disease is taking her away The author paints vivid pictures of the cold, the fright, the hunger of WWII Russia and the cold and frightening illness that is taking her mind now.This book appealed to me personally, on so many levels My parents born in Ukraine at that time Russia and survived the WWII seige of the nazis Art which I love, and I also visited the Hermitage museum website, as some other reviewer s here did The author s descriptions were magnificent Alzheimer s I ve been caring for my mom who has it The author gives such an amazing impression of what the inner life of an Alzheimer s patient might be.My favorite passage, The slow erosion of self has its compensations Having forgotten whatever associations might dull her vision, she can look at a leaf and see it for the first time Though reason suggests it otherwise, she has never seen this green before It is wondrous Each day the world is made fresh again, holy and she takes it in, in all its intensity, like a young child One can only hope.

  9. says:

    What a magnificent read this was I am resisting the urge to start reading it again right away only because I have so many on my nightstand that I want to read But this will be one to be read again sooner than later I found myself spending so much time looking up the works of art mentioned in the book and the Hermitage Museum website that it took much longer than it should have to read this 228 page book It is so beautifully written I found myself reading passages over and over again and marking pages with any scrap of paper I had handy I see it was tied for 1 Booksense pick for April A pretty good hallmark of an excellent read This is an amazing story of a woman with Alzheimer s disease, so many times described as the long goodbye and most notable in the following passage, 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 The only thing a bit off putting was the naming of an island in the San Juans Drake island when there is no such island when the author uses so many other real places but I believe it was actually San Juan Island where I have visited many times, most recently last August That is such a small quibble This is such an outstanding book I only regret I can t afford to buy one to give to everyone I know.

  10. says:

    August book group.The story follow the current and past years of an aged woman, Marina, afflicted with Alzheimer s Her earlier years are set in WWII Russia when she was a tour guide at the Hermitage in Leningrad Her later years are set in WA state at the time of a grandson s wedding and her visiting daughter s recognition of Marina s current state of health As I read the Russia years I thought of my reading of Angela s Ashes and my feeling of luxury in having ready access to food and comfort in comparison to the characters As the Hermitage workers remove all the art from the walls for hidden storage, for they don t know how long, Marina learns to commit to memory every detail of most of the paintings so they will know where to re install them She then finds an unique value in her recollections that bring some relief to the soldiers who arrive at the museum A really nice ending An example of what can be noted if one really looks.

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