Customer Reviews for

The Madonnas of Leningrad

Average Rating 4
( 64 )
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(21)

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(1)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Highest recommendation

This book is just absolutely beautiful on so many levels. Writing a review of it is such a pleasure. The book is poetic. The book is historical fiction at its best. The book deals with the horrors of Alzheimer's in the gentlest way possible. The book is most importantly...
This book is just absolutely beautiful on so many levels. Writing a review of it is such a pleasure. The book is poetic. The book is historical fiction at its best. The book deals with the horrors of Alzheimer's in the gentlest way possible. The book is most importantly, at least for me, about the power of art. I loved this book and give it my highest recommendation.If you read nothing else this year, read this book.

posted by Mariposa on July 11, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Beautiful writing, unfinished story

I loved the author's use of language. Her ability to make reader feel like they are they are experiencing what the characters experience is amazing. Unfortunately, the story is unfinished. It leaves far too many story threads dangling. I would gladly have read 100 m...
I loved the author's use of language. Her ability to make reader feel like they are they are experiencing what the characters experience is amazing. Unfortunately, the story is unfinished. It leaves far too many story threads dangling. I would gladly have read 100 more pages if she would fill in more details of her characters' lives.

posted by Anonymous on April 6, 2006

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  • Posted July 11, 2009

    Highest recommendation

    This book is just absolutely beautiful on so many levels. Writing a review of it is such a pleasure. The book is poetic. The book is historical fiction at its best. The book deals with the horrors of Alzheimer's in the gentlest way possible. The book is most importantly, at least for me, about the power of art. I loved this book and give it my highest recommendation.If you read nothing else this year, read this book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Beautiful!

    This book was beautiful! I enjoyed Debra's descriptions of the museum and artwork. I felt as though I was walking right along with her. I had my computer close by so I could look up the paintings as she described them. To me, this book was an art history lesson in the middle of a beautiful story about two distinct topics: the pain of alzheimer's and the pain of war. I highly recommend this book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting

    I found the insights into Alzheimer's to be as fascinating as the story of Leningrad. The descriptions were accurate and the story well told. I would highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2007

    For any art lover who loves someone with Alzheimers

    The Madonnas of Leningrad will lead you through the depths of despair to the heights of all that is good in humanity, the realization that there is always hope and remembering beauty, art, love and passion can fill your darkest days. As a young woman Marina survives the siege of Leningrad during World War II living in the cellar of the Hermitage, amidst starvation, death and horrendous atrocities, she memorizes the paintings she once described as a docent, though they have already been taken from their frames to safety elsewhere. As the book skips back and forth in time, Marina today is an elderly woman with Alzheimer¿s. We see how time is 'fractured' for her and the effects it has on her family. The family disagrees over what to do, but is overshadowed by the pain of Marina's husband, who promised her he would take care of her but cannot get 'her' back. For those of us who have or have had a family member with Alzheimer¿s, this book helps to confirm your own experience yet may possibly give you hope that your loved one, when 'gone away' from you could well have been experiencing the most significant event of their lives. It's a must read for you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2006

    Mysteries of love, art, and the mind

    THE MADONNA'S OF LENINGRAD by Debra Dean is a well crafted book about times during 1940's war torn Russia when the museum's staff were crating up and moving their art works to safer places. It is more importantly, about a woman who was part of this work but, years later, is now living in America and suffering the affects of dementia. She recalls her life in Russia because of a process that she used in the museum called 'mapping the mind'. This book reminded me of Nicholas Spark's THE NOTEBOOK as it tenderly and loving deals with the people who suffer the loss of their past because of the loss of their mind's memories. It is a wonderful read for everyone who is related to, deals with, or might themselves become a victim of dementia sometime in life. This book shows how the beauty of artwork affects the mind and emotions of people- all people- in their everyday lives. The hardships of war are depicted through the innocence of this incomplete mind during recollections which make these memories all the more poignant. MADONNA'S OF LENINGRAD is a beautiful book and Debra Dean has the start of a wonderful writing career with this, her first novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2006

    I love this books and I loved the characters.

    What a wonderful book! It leaves the reader with so much to think about. How much of our memories are real? Are memories safer than everyday life? It is also a story of survival. How do we survive everyday life? In this case, we get to see how one woman survives two very devastating times in her life. The first by creating the memories of her young adulthood in war torn Leningrad and the other, in her final years trying to live with, and deny the effects of, Alzheimer's disease by slipping back into those memories. This book is beautifully written. I felt the fear and cold of Leningrad in 1941 and I felt the terror of trying to cope and understand what is happening in 2005 Seattle. And through it all, love prevailed. I wish the book could have included prints of the pictures mentioned but I know it would be cost prohibitice. I did go online and found them. It makes me SO want to go to the Hermitage Museum. I will be recommending this book to my friends and my book groups!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2006

    A Must Read

    A beautiful story about the gentle strength of women even in the worst of times. Marina's love of art transends her reality of the terrible days during WWII when Leningrad is under siege. Later in her life, beauty again heals her spirit and brings the reader into a real sense of peace and hope too.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A hauntingly beautiful Must Read

    Marina doesn't recognize her daughter but can picture clearly the residents of the Hermitage museum during 1941 as Hitler marched on Russia, she can't comprehend that the woman standing before her is her granddaughter and yet she can see the faces of her cousins as they board the busses leaving Leningrad, can still feel the anguish of their mother and the resolve of their father, she sees before her a spread of food and thinks it's a dream because she remembers like yesterday the starvation of a whole city during one terrible winter.
    Set in modern day Seattle Ms. Dean takes us into the cloudy web of the mind of a woman who's lived through mindless tragedy, unspeakable degradation and survived to tell the tale only to be ravaged by another foe that will make her forget, but she doesn't stop there she takes us into the heart of this family and how they cope with a mother who's not all there anymore and a father who won't let her go. She does this by spending a chapter in the present and one in the past to show us the continuity of her story and then to show us further the effect on the victim some of the chapters meld together in one confusing episode. Her narrative is haunting, it's raw, it's terrifying and it's beautiful, it's love in the first degree between Dimitri and Marina and she captures that feeling no better than on page 119 where Dimitri says of Marina "She was his country and he hers. They were inseparable". Her descriptions of war torn Leningrad and her dying people is horrifyingly realistic and yet she also brings forth the utter stubbornness of this people who refuse to give up as they go through they're daily routines even as they slowly die.
    It's a love story, it's a tragedy, it's a story of life and the end of it. It's a tale of literary fiction that you will find yourself coming back to time and time again.
    It's important to not forget that there are works out there that are not hot off the presses that need to be discovered or in my case rediscovered, like this one.

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  • Posted June 29, 2009

    Fascinating Historical Fiction

    If you've traveled to St. Petersburg and visited the Hermitage this novel will give you new insights to the museum and its art. If not, it is still a fascinating story based on real events during the Second World War. Marina's memories of her survival living in the basement of the Hermitage through a desperate winter when the city was being attacked by air raids nearly every night is memorable. Having something to do during the day to keep her mind active was essential. She pursued the unusual mind game of recalling the stored art in each room of the museum from memory. Her ability to bring the paintings to life through her detailed descriptions is amazing.

    The added twist to the story is that many chapters are written as though Marina is a young woman living through the war. However, in reality she is quite old and is suffering from Alzheimers. Some chapters are written from her current confused perspective and a few reflect the views of Marina's daughter about dealing with her mother.

    The story and twists and turns keep the reader engaged. Although the settings sound dreary they do not read that way on the page. The situation is so unusual that it kept me reading, almost as if it was a summer page turner. This would make an excellent book club selection. I encourage everyone to read this fascinating story.

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

    One of my favorites of the past year.

    This is one of my favorite books of the last year. I'm in two book clubs plus read others in between sometimes. I am recommending this to all my friends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2006

    A beautiful story, beautifully told

    Debra Dean's new novel is crafted with prose reminiscent of Hemingway's spare writing. Every word was placed with care. The story incorporates descriptions of the art treasures of the Hermitage in pre WWII Leningrad as a major story line. Like art seen in a museum, our lives leave us with memories that may (or may not) be accurate but are real to us. Dean's story was a wonderful read. The switching between past and present was effective and the ending, while abrupt, left us pondering what was real and what really happened both then and today. Not to be missed!

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