The Mirrored World [NOOK Book]

Overview

The bestselling author of The Madonnas of Leningrad returns with a breathtaking novel of love, madness, and devotion set against the extravagant royal court of eighteenth-century St. Petersburg.

Born to a Russian family of lower nobility, Xenia, an eccentric dreamer who cares little for social conventions, falls in love with Andrei, a charismatic soldier and singer in the Empress's Imperial choir. Though husband and wife adore each other, their happiness is overshadowed by the ...

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The Mirrored World

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Overview

The bestselling author of The Madonnas of Leningrad returns with a breathtaking novel of love, madness, and devotion set against the extravagant royal court of eighteenth-century St. Petersburg.

Born to a Russian family of lower nobility, Xenia, an eccentric dreamer who cares little for social conventions, falls in love with Andrei, a charismatic soldier and singer in the Empress's Imperial choir. Though husband and wife adore each other, their happiness is overshadowed by the absurd demands of life at the royal court and by Xenia's growing obsession with having a child—a desperate need that is at last fulfilled with the birth of her daughter. But then a tragic vision comes true, and a shattered Xenia descends into grief, undergoing a profound transformation that alters the course of her life. Turning away from family and friends, she begins giving all her money and possessions to the poor. Then, one day, she mysteriously vanishes.

Years later, dressed in the tatters of her husband's military uniform and answering only to his name, Xenia is discovered tending the paupers of St. Petersburg's slums. Revered as a soothsayer and a blessed healer to the downtrodden, she is feared by the royal court and its new Empress, Catherine, who perceives her deeds as a rebuke to their lavish excesses. In this evocative and elegantly written tale, Dean reimagines the intriguing life of Xenia of St. Petersburg, a patron saint of her city and one of Russia's most mysterious and beloved holy figures. This is an exploration of the blessings of loyal friendship, the limits of reason, and the true costs of loving deeply.

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  • The Mirrored World
    The Mirrored World  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her second novel (after The Madonnas of Leningrad), Dean returns to Russia to reimagine the intriguing life story of St. Xenia, as seen through the eyes of the fictional narrator, Dashenka. A terrible fire in 1736 in St. Petersburg forces a young Xenia; her sister, Nadya; and their mother to seek refuge in Dasha’s childhood home. The girls grow up together and are ushered into society the same year. Soon after, Xenia falls in love with Col. Andrei Petrov and the two wed. Dasha is not so lucky, but is kindly welcomed into Xenia’s house, where she witnesses Xenia unravel, first over her difficulty in conceiving, then the deaths of her only baby and husband. When an unstable Xenia begins to relinquish her worldly possessions, Dasha becomes concerned, and Xenia suddenly disappears, only to resurface years later as a saint to the poor—much to the chagrin of the royals. For those familiar with the story of St. Xenia, this is a gratifying take on a compelling woman. For others, Dean’s vivid prose and deft pacing make for a quick and entertaining read. Agent: Marly Rusoff. (Sept.)
Bookreporter.com
“Transporting readers to St. Petersburg during the reign of Catherine the Great, Dean brilliantly reconstructs and reimagines the life of St. Xenia, one of Russia’s most revered and mysterious holy figures, in a richly told and thought-provoking work of historical fiction.”
Booklist
“Dean’s novel grows more profound and affecting with every page.”
Seattle Times
“In her excellent second novel, THE MIRRORED WORLD, Debra Dean has composed a resonant and compelling tale. . . . Dean’s writing is superb; she uses imagery natural to the story and an earlier time.”
Miami Herald
“In Debra Dean’s skilled hands, history comes alive. . . . Though the world she creates is harsh and cold at times, it is the warmth at its center— the power of love — that stays with you in the end.”
Stewart O'Nan
"Love affairs, rivalries, intrigues, prophecy, cross-dressing, madness, sorrow, poverty—THE MIRRORED WORLD is a litany of both the homely and the miraculous. Intimate and richly appointed, Debra Dean’s Imperial St. Petersburg is as sumptuous and enchanted as the Winter Palace."
Stewart O’Nan
“Love affairs, rivalries, intrigues, prophecy, cross-dressing, madness, sorrow, poverty—THE MIRRORED WORLD is a litany of both the homely and the miraculous. Intimate and richly appointed, Debra Dean’s Imperial St. Petersburg is as sumptuous and enchanted as the Winter Palace.”
Ann Hood
“THE MIRRORED WORLD explores the mysteries of love and grief and devotion. Against a vivid backdrop of eighteenth century St. Petersburg and Catherine the Great’s royal court, the woman who would become St. Xenia is brought fully to life. Is there a more imaginative, elegant storyteller than Debra Dean?”
Garth Stein
“With evocative, rich prose and deep emotional resonance, Debra Dean delivers a compelling and captivating story that touches the soul. Truly a wonderful read.”
Library Journal
Xenia, a patron saint of St. Petersburg, is the inspiration for this melancholy novel depicting the lives of three girls in the 18th-century "Venice of the North." Nadya marries an older suitor and lives a stuffy, bourgeois life. Dasha, the narrator, marries a musico, an Italian eunuch who performs in the Imperial choir. Their life is unconventional and sad. Xenia marries Andrei, a handsome officer who sings in the same choir. Their grand passion ends abruptly with his death in a drunken fall. In her grief, Xenia becomes a Holy Fool living on the streets and ministering to the poor and afflicted. VERDICT Dean made a skyrocketing literary debut with The Madonnas of Leningrad and follows up with a meditative spiritual saga that honors its subject with an artful recreation of Xenia's era. Subtle period details and dramatic facts of the 18th century enliven this fictional biography though the stories move along at a stately processional pace. [See Prepub Alert, 3/5/12.]—Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA
Kirkus Reviews
From Dean (Confessions of a Falling Woman, 2008, etc.), a lightly fictionalized retelling of the life of the Eastern Orthodox St. Xenia, who left her comfortable home in 18th-century Russia to live as a "holy fool" among the poor. Xenia's cousin, Dasha, who grew up with Xenia and her older sister, Nadya, narrates Xenia's history. From an early age, Xenia clearly has an independent spirit. She is an eccentric who cannot help showing her often-passionate feelings about the world around her without restraint. She also has dreams that are particularly vivid and can "see" what others cannot. At one of Empress Elizabeth's balls, ethereally lovely Xenia doesn't care that she makes a spectacle of herself over the choral singer Andrei because she knows immediately that she will marry him. It is a love match--Xenia may seem otherworldly, but she also enjoys earthly passion. Dasha does not find a husband because she is plain and enjoys reading--considered a dangerous ability among Russian women of her class. Living with Xenia and Andrei, Dasha witnesses Xenia's meltdown after her infant daughter's death. Then Andrei suffers a comic yet tragic death, falling down the steps in Xenia's gown after attending the empress' famous cross-dressing ball. Xenia's first reaction is catatonic grief. Then, although almsgiving is against the law, she starts giving away her belongings to any beggar who asks. When Dasha at last marries an Italian castrato per Xenia's prediction, Xenia's wedding gift is her house. Calling herself Andrei and dressing in his clothes, Xenia lives on the streets among the poor. She becomes known as the "holy fool." Widowed herself, Dasha is influenced by Xenia's example to open her home to those in need. Xenia even leads Dasha to adopt a child in an underdeveloped plotline. The novel follows the factual particulars, but Dasha's narration remains at such a formal remove that readers never experience what makes Xenia tick as a saint or a woman.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062198921
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 189,305
  • File size: 928 KB

Meet the Author

A native of Seattle, Debra Dean worked as an actor in New York for nearly a decade before becoming a writer. She lives in Miami and teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 16, 2012

    Riveting but sad

    The Mirrored World imagines the world and life of St. Xenia, a historical figure known for serving the impoverished in St. Petersburg, Russia during the eighteenth century and endeavors to explain how she became the historical figure that she is known for today. The tale is told by Xenia's cousin Dasha and is enriched by historical details (and gossip) about the royal family and the quirky antics of the court during this time period.

    This is a sad interesting tale that I enjoyed quite a bit. It didn't have me tearing through the pages, but every time I opened this little book I found myself losing track of time as I became completely engrossed in the story. Dasha isn't the most interesting character but somehow the story is more interesting told from her point of view. The beauty of this book is the writing and how Ms. Dean manages to unveil a sad story in such an artistic manner. It's almost like a song, sad and poignant. My only complaint involves the description on the book cover. It tells the entire story. I like reading descriptions but this one goes too far.

    I'm not sure if it is for everyone, but if you enjoy historical fiction and great writing, give this one a try. Be prepared for a sad sad read though.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A book that is

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings

    A book that is narrated by Dasha, but centers around Xenia who in the middle of her life makes a drastic change and Dasha is there with a front row view.  Starting from the very beginning, this short book took a quick trip through Xenia and Dasha's entire lives from a very young age through tragedy to older age.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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