The Madonnas of Leningrad

by Debra Dean | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0060825308 Global Overview for this book
Registered by geishabird of Toronto, Ontario Canada on 2/28/2006
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4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by geishabird from Toronto, Ontario Canada on Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina's grip on the everyday. And while the elderly Russian woman cannot hold on to fresh memories - the details of her grown children's lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild - her distant past is preserved: vivid images that rise, unbidden, of her youth in war-torn Leningrad...

Advanced Reader's Edition received through HarperCollins' First Look program. Below is my review as submitted:

An unremarkable first novel. One of the main problems with this book is that it is far too short for the scope of the story that Debra Dean attempts to tell here. As a result, the narrative is sketchy and superficial, skimming over episodes and characters that really should be explored in depth in order to bring out their full potential. Dean is still struggling over the technicalities of writing, as well; there are numerous clumsy, cliched and unnecessary bits that seriously detract from the story. There are a few nice images in the Leningrad parts of the book, but overall the writing is flat and the story predictable and leaves no lasting impresion. I'm afraid I found nothing new here.

Journal Entry 2 by wingAceofHeartswing from Mississauga, Ontario Canada on Sunday, April 23, 2006
received at the 2006 Toronto Convention. It was so nice to meet you, Geishabird

Journal Entry 3 by wingAceofHeartswing at Mississauga, Ontario Canada on Thursday, December 23, 2010
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.

Journal Entry 4 by HoserLauren at Toronto, Ontario Canada on Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Reading now

Journal Entry 5 by HoserLauren at Toronto, Ontario Canada on Friday, March 11, 2011
During the fall and winter months of 1941, Marina, a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum, is packing the museums artwork and precious artifacts to make sure they aren't destroyed during the war. As each piece is packed away, she memorizes its location and the way it looks, making sure that someone remembers the museum as it was before the war in case it never returns to that way. Then she suffers through incredibly tough times, hiding during raids, staying in the cold on watch, and eating and sleeping very little.

Marina's past is interwoven with her present, a grandmother with Alzheimers who is losing threads with the present and keeps remembering the past. There are some similarities between past and present that keep the story moving along.

While I really enjoyed the concept of this book, and most of the execution, there were some things that nagged at me by the time I had finished. The first was I felt like the book wasn't developed completely. Characters floated in and out of the novel without much explanation even though some of them did have impact. The other thing that really bothered me was that the book just ended. What happened after the war? What happened after the wedding for Marina?

I wish these bits had been developed a bit more because that would have made the book just that much better.

Journal Entry 6 by wingAceofHeartswing at Mississauga, Ontario Canada on Sunday, March 13, 2011
This book is back with me :)

Journal Entry 7 by wingAceofHeartswing at Mississauga, Ontario Canada on Saturday, October 01, 2011
mailed yesterday to Candy-is-Dandy who won this in a YBS swap on BookObsessed

Journal Entry 8 by wingcandy-is-dandywing at Braintree, Essex United Kingdom on Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Received safely. Thanks very much.

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