05 October 2012

The Madonnas of Leningrad; Debra Dean

The Madonnas of LeningradThe Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More historical fiction about Russia, set partly during the siege of Leningrad. In that timeline, Marina is a docent at the Hermitage; during the war, she is part of the group that packed up and saved the artworks from the approaching Nazis and their bombs. In the modern timeline, she's got Alzheimer's, slowly living more and more in her past and not always recognizing her children or their children.

While the story of the time during the siege was no different from that of any other population starving (except most groups didn't have the opportunity to eat soup made from the glue that holds artworks to their frames), the setting is exceptional. Marina, along with an even older docent, Anya, take on the task of memorizing where each painting was on the walls and being able to describe it so clearly that visitors can see what's no longer there. This skill is demonstrated throughout the book and it made me want to dig through my art history books, just to see if I could find an image of the real thing. Even without that, I got a sense of how special the museum was.

Copy provided by publisher.

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