The Madonnas of Leningrad: A Novel

The Madonnas of Leningrad: A Novel

by Debra Dean
3.8 67

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The Madonnas of Leningrad 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
Mariposa More than 1 year ago
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.
akateferg More than 1 year ago
In this book, memory is the the theme for the main character Marina. As a young woman during the siege of Leningrad, Marina learns to create a "memory palace" of the Russian Hermitage Museum as they pack up and send away the treasures of art, not knowing if they would ever make it back to the museum. She is able to use this memory as a young woman to share the treasures of the museum with people, such as a group of young soldiers, by giving tours of the empty museum and describing each work of art in detail, as if it were still hanging in its rightful place. This was what helped her survive during that terrible ordeal. Marina uses her memory palace to keep the museum and her youth alive in her mind, and goes back to it as she ages and her memories of other things fade. As Alzheimer's advances, she cannot remember where she is or that the woman next to her is her daughter, but she can recall in vivid detail the lines of a beautiful painting or sculpture. We remember the tragic of events of a war, because more often than not there are greater lessons to be learned. War teaches us about prejudice and hatred, scapegoating and indifference. Memories of tragic events also teach us to be grateful for what we have, and not take for granted the gifts given to us. Marina learned these lessons yet she is now in a state where she can no longer passs them on. The Madonnas of leningrad is striking not only because it is well written and draws the reader in, but because it relates the theme of memory to our lives, and reminds us that memories are sometimes all we really have.
Erica827 More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
goodnurse More than 1 year ago
I loved the back and forth from past to present and interweaving of memories with facts about the museum.
SAM1954 More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Angela2932ND More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed in this book. It blends Marina's present (when she is in her 80s, suffering from Alzheimer's) and her past, 1940's Leningrad and the siege of the city. Both realities provide a fascinating glimpse of her life, but neither are developed enough to satisfy. The premise is clever, and the book moves readily from era to era, but the overall feel is much too fragmented. To compound the problem, the long passages devoted to the artwork of the museum in Leningrad would likely be very appealing to an artist or art historian, or someone who has traveled to Leningrad. . . but sadly, I don't fall into any of those categories. I would have enjoyed reading more about either time of Marina's life, but ultimately was relieved when I finished the book.
mt1roc More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The characters weren't sufficiently developed to make the reader really care about them. I ended the novel not 'knowing' anyone. I wasn't bothered by the switching back and forth through time in the book, but it seemed like a contrivance that just didn't really work. I kept waiting for there to be a much stronger connection between past and present of Marina's 'memory palace' and it just never happened. Very disappointing story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was very disappointing to me as the plot sounded far better than its implementation. The switching from era to era is not seamless and there is a preponderance of minutiae concerning the art. I have no doubt the author did her research but it was overdone and seemed to pad the plot without purpose. I will not buy another book by this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this when it was originally published and consider it one of the best stories I have ever read. The author did an excellent job of portraying a mind suffering from alzheimers. Ironicly I was in a Russian class when I read the story, so the past presented during the seige of St.Petersburg/Leningrad held special interest to me because I have always wanted to see that beautiful city and especially The Hermitage Museum. I could easily imagine myself in that time and place so it was a very emotional read. This was especially true when the story returned to the present, showing the frailties of age now present in such a once strong woman who fought to keep morale up with beauty and cultural alive under such harsh conditions. Lastly, this story lead to a long discussion in Russian after I gave my original book to my teacher to read. She said it was very authentic. Her family was from there and she too cared for her elderly mother who missed their homeland and the beauty of their city. I left the book with her so she could share it with her friends. I am so happy to now own another copy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written first novel by Ms. Dean. A good historic novel that deals with Altzhimer desease.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed much of the book but also agree that the story seemed very unfinished.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for summer reading and boy is it good it may be confusing at times but if you re-read the confusing parts it helps you understand it a little better tha what i did!
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