Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Madonnas of Leningrad

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
Historical Fiction

This is a beautiful story about an elderly woman, Marina who is losing touch with the present due to Alzheimer's and re-living her past.

Marina was a docent in the Hermitage at the time of the Nazis' siege on Leningrad. The staff removed the paintings from the frames for safekeeping. Marina was able to remember every single brushstroke and re-create each painting in her memory. Dean is able to describe these paintings with breath-taking detail. Amid the starvation while the city is under siege and the horror of the constant attacks, amid the close calls with death and the grotesque deaths of close friends and relatives the paintings are a way to keep her sanity.

This book shifts between present day and the past just like an Alzheimer's patient does. Marina is taken by her daughter to a grandchild's wedding where she is slipping away from reality. Dean captures the horror of this disease extremely well.

Where I thought the book could have been improved is in the development of the characters in the present and what occurred after the war was over. A little too much was skimmed over.

Overall, a wonderful story and well worth reading.

First Line: "This way, please."


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