Madonnas of Leningrad, TheDean, Debra
Marina Buriakov, an 82-year-old Russian emigre, is preparing for her granddaughter's wedding near Seattle, while fighting a losing battle against Alzheimer's. Disappearing into the memory of her time as a young Hermitage Museum guide, Marina relives the siege of Leningrad and how museum staff members were instructed to remove the museum's priceless masterpieces for safekeeping. During the siege, young Marina constructs a mental version of the museum, committing to memory the paintings, and their placement. Sixty years later, this "memory palace" is all Marina has left.
Comments from Groups
A truly lovely story enjoyed by all. Incorporates lots of elements: social commentary, history and family relationships. Thoroughly recommended read. Tauranga 015A great book-loved by all. Lively discussions were around our ageing mothers, senility and how we end up being parents to our parents. Auckland 083 A mixed reaction to the book - which leads to the best discussions. If we all agree, the meeting is a bit dull. Some thought the book was too detailed in the Leningrad scenes, but we all thought the descriptions were vivid and credible. Excellent use of language to convey the descent into Alzheimer's. Abrupt ending. Taupo 006 Everyone read and enjoyed this book. We were amazed at the amount of research Debra Dean must have done, considering she had never been to St. Petersburg or The Hermitage prior to writing the book. An interesting and empathetic book. Waiheke Island 001 Enjoyed by the whole group who thought it worthwhile to recommend to friends and families. The author was able to describe art treasures, especially paintings, so vividly that we, the readers, saw the works and recognised ones we had previously seen in illustration form. Dementia was portrayed with gentleness, yet gave an honest account of effects both on the sufferer and the family. We felt involved with the characters! Much discussion generated , especially as we had read Sarah Quigley's 'The Conductor' previously, another book on the siege of Leningrad. We await another novel by Debra Dean and hope it is researched as thoroughly as this. Katikati 001 We loved this book. It stimulated lots of further research both on-line (virtual tour of The Hermitage) and at the library, which stocked at least one of the author's source books. The discussion was fuelled by quite challenging questions - good to be made to think. This is probably our favourite book so far this year. Wellington 022 We enjoyed the factual history of the book most of all. Like the author, most of us knew next to nothing about the siege of Leningrad, and we were very interested to learn about it and its shocking effects on the inhabitants. The memory feats in describing the removed paintings were perhaps exaggerated but, if not entirely believable, were believable enough not to be distracting. Our overall impression was one of admiration for the author's imagination, and the research that enabled her to write such an impressive novel about a time before she was born and a place she had never visited. Our score was 8/10. Wanganui 011 The book was well received. Some could relate to the family dynamics. For those who had been to St. Petersburg and the Hermitage it was a particularly good read. auckland 290