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The Madonnas of Leningrad

The Madonnas of Leningrad Cover

ISBN13: 9780060825300
ISBN10: 0060825308
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

One of the most talked about books of the year... 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.

In the fall of 1941, the German army approached the outskirts of Leningrad, signaling the beginning of what would become a long and torturous siege. During the ensuing months, the city's inhabitants would brave starvation and the bitter cold, all while fending off the constant German onslaught. Marina, then a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum, along with other staff members, was instructed to take down the museum's priceless masterpieces for safekeeping, yet leave the frames hanging empty on the walls — a symbol of the artworks' eventual return. To hold on to sanity when the Luftwaffe's bombs began to fall, she burned to memory, brushstroke by brushstroke, these exquisite artworks: the nude figures of women, the angels, the serene Madonnas that had so shortly before gazed down upon her. She used them to furnish a memory palace, a personal Hermitage in her mind to which she retreated to escape terror, hunger, and encroaching death. A refuge that would stay buried deep within her, until she needed it once more....

Seamlessly moving back and forth in time between the Soviet Union and contemporary America, The Madonnas of Leningrad is a searing portrait of war and remembrance, of the power of love, memory, and art to offer beauty, grace, and hope in the face of overwhelming despair. Gripping, touching, and heartbreaking, it marks the debut of Debra Dean, a bold new voice in American fiction.

Review:

"Russian emigre Marina Buriakov, 82, is preparing for her granddaughter's wedding near Seattle while fighting a losing battle against Alzheimer's. Stuggling to remember whom Katie is marrying (and indeed that there is to be a marriage at all), Marina does remember her youth as a Hermitage Museum docent as the siege of Leningrad began; it is into these memories that she disappears. After frantic packing, the Hermitage's collection is transported to a safe hiding place until the end of the war. The museum staff and their families remain, wintering (all 2,000 of them) in the Hermitage basement to avoid bombs and marauding soldiers. Marina, using the technique of a fellow docent, memorizes favorite Hermitage works; these memories, beautifully interspersed, are especially vibrant. Dean, making her debut, weaves Marina's past and present together effortlessly. The dialogue around Marina's forgetfulness is extremely well done, and the Hermitage material has depth. Although none of the characters emerges particularly vividly (Marina included), memory, the hopes one pins on it and the letting go one must do around it all take on real poignancy, giving the story a satisfying fullness." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Russian emigr Marina Buriakov, 82, is preparing for her granddaughter's wedding near Seattle while fighting a losing battle against Alzheimer's. Stuggling to remember whom Katie is marrying (and indeed that there is to be a marriage at all), Marina does remember her youth as a Hermitage Museum docent as the siege of Leningrad began; it is into these memories that she disappears. After frantic packing, the Hermitage's collection is transported to a safe hiding place until the end of the war. The museum staff and their families remain, wintering (all 2,000 of them) in the Hermitage basement to avoid bombs and marauding soldiers. Marina, using the technique of a fellow docent, memorizes favorite Hermitage works; these memories, beautifully interspersed, are especially vibrant. Dean, making her debut, weaves Marina's past and present together effortlessly. The dialogue around Marina's forgetfulness is extremely well done, and the Hermitage material has depth. Although none of the characters emerges particularly vividly (Marina included), memory, the hopes one pins on it and the letting go one must do around it all take on real poignancy, giving the story a satisfying fullness. (On sale Mar. 14)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"An unforgettable story of love, survival and the power of imagination in the most tragic circumstances. Elegant and poetic, the rare kind of book that you want to keep but you have to share." Isabel Allende, New York Times bestselling author of Zorro

Review:

"The Madonnas of Leningrad is an extraordinary debut, a deeply lovely novel that evokes with uncommon deftness the terrible, heartbreaking beauty that is life in wartime. Like the glorious ghosts of the paintings in the Hermitage that lie at the heart of the story, Dean?s exquisite prose shimmers with a haunting glow, illuminating us to the notion that art itself is perhaps our most necessary nourishment. A superbly graceful novel." Chang-Rae Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Aloft and Native Speaker

Review:

"Spare, elegant language, taut emotion, and the crystal-clear ring of truth secure for this debut work a spot on library shelves everywhere." Library Journal (Starred Review)

Review:

"Gracefully shifting between the Soviet Union and the contemporary Pacific Northwest, first-time novelist Dean renders a poignant tale about the power of memory. Dean eloquently describes the works of Rembrandt, Rubens, and Raphael, but she is at her best illuminating aging Marina?s precarious state of mind." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"Memory and the imagination are the gifts that keep on giving in The Madonnas of Leningrad, an exceptional debut novel by Seattle writer Debra Dean." Seattle Times

Review:

"A thoughtful tragedy that morphs into a tear-jerker in the third act." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Gracefully shifting between the Soviet Union and the contemporary Pacific Northwest, first-time novelist Dean renders a poignant tale about the power of memory." Booklist

Review:

"Dean writes with passion and compelling drama about a grotesque chapter of World War II." People

Review:

"[A] poetic novel." San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

Review:

"Dean merges past and present in prose that shines like the gilt frames in the hermitage....[T]his novel of memory and forgetting glows with love and hope." BookPage

Review:

"Exquisitely crafted and deeply satisfying." Oakland Tribune

Review:

"[A] remarkable first novel about the consolation of memory." NPR Nancy Pearl Book Review

Synopsis:

In this sublime debut novel, set amid the horrors of the siege of Leningrad in World War II, a gifted writer explores the power of memory to save...and betray.

About the Author

Debra Dean worked as an actor in the New York theater for nearly a decade before opting for the life of a writer and teacher. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. The Madonnas of Leningrad is her first novel.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

bookluver, July 11, 2007 (view all comments by bookluver)
It is World War II. Many paintings in the Hermitage are taken away and hidden before Germany's army can invade Leningrad. On the walls are just empty gilded frames. There is hope and faith that the famous paintings are gone from the walls for only a short time.

In the meantime, Marina and Anya build a memory palace. Memorizing each painting and its rightful frame on the wall. This will ensure that each piece of Art will return to its original place. This is also an easy way to discover which paintings are still missing.

Marina loves this museum. Her memorization is like a prayer as she walks the halls of the Hermitage. She remembers all the painted Madonnas. She knows the name of each artist.

Many years later Marina suffers Alzheimers disease. During this time her mind leaves the present and wanders back to the war days spent in the Hermitage. Her family is confused. Her few words make no sense to her husband, daughter and son.

It is amazing how Debra Dean in a first novel is able to catch the past. For me, the past became the present just like it became for Marina. The novel 'Madonnas of Leningrad' by Debra Dean is beauty mixed with sadness. It is a song in prose to be read and remembered.

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(17 of 20 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780060825300
Subtitle:
A Novel
Publisher:
William Morrow
Author:
Dean, Debra
Author:
by Debra Dean
Subject:
General
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
History
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Russian Americans
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20060314
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
8.54x5.79x.85 in. .87 lbs.

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Madonnas of Leningrad
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 240 pages William Morrow & Company - English 9780060825300 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Russian emigre Marina Buriakov, 82, is preparing for her granddaughter's wedding near Seattle while fighting a losing battle against Alzheimer's. Stuggling to remember whom Katie is marrying (and indeed that there is to be a marriage at all), Marina does remember her youth as a Hermitage Museum docent as the siege of Leningrad began; it is into these memories that she disappears. After frantic packing, the Hermitage's collection is transported to a safe hiding place until the end of the war. The museum staff and their families remain, wintering (all 2,000 of them) in the Hermitage basement to avoid bombs and marauding soldiers. Marina, using the technique of a fellow docent, memorizes favorite Hermitage works; these memories, beautifully interspersed, are especially vibrant. Dean, making her debut, weaves Marina's past and present together effortlessly. The dialogue around Marina's forgetfulness is extremely well done, and the Hermitage material has depth. Although none of the characters emerges particularly vividly (Marina included), memory, the hopes one pins on it and the letting go one must do around it all take on real poignancy, giving the story a satisfying fullness." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Russian emigr Marina Buriakov, 82, is preparing for her granddaughter's wedding near Seattle while fighting a losing battle against Alzheimer's. Stuggling to remember whom Katie is marrying (and indeed that there is to be a marriage at all), Marina does remember her youth as a Hermitage Museum docent as the siege of Leningrad began; it is into these memories that she disappears. After frantic packing, the Hermitage's collection is transported to a safe hiding place until the end of the war. The museum staff and their families remain, wintering (all 2,000 of them) in the Hermitage basement to avoid bombs and marauding soldiers. Marina, using the technique of a fellow docent, memorizes favorite Hermitage works; these memories, beautifully interspersed, are especially vibrant. Dean, making her debut, weaves Marina's past and present together effortlessly. The dialogue around Marina's forgetfulness is extremely well done, and the Hermitage material has depth. Although none of the characters emerges particularly vividly (Marina included), memory, the hopes one pins on it and the letting go one must do around it all take on real poignancy, giving the story a satisfying fullness. (On sale Mar. 14)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "An unforgettable story of love, survival and the power of imagination in the most tragic circumstances. Elegant and poetic, the rare kind of book that you want to keep but you have to share."
"Review" by , "The Madonnas of Leningrad is an extraordinary debut, a deeply lovely novel that evokes with uncommon deftness the terrible, heartbreaking beauty that is life in wartime. Like the glorious ghosts of the paintings in the Hermitage that lie at the heart of the story, Dean?s exquisite prose shimmers with a haunting glow, illuminating us to the notion that art itself is perhaps our most necessary nourishment. A superbly graceful novel."
"Review" by , "Spare, elegant language, taut emotion, and the crystal-clear ring of truth secure for this debut work a spot on library shelves everywhere."
"Review" by , "Gracefully shifting between the Soviet Union and the contemporary Pacific Northwest, first-time novelist Dean renders a poignant tale about the power of memory. Dean eloquently describes the works of Rembrandt, Rubens, and Raphael, but she is at her best illuminating aging Marina?s precarious state of mind."
"Review" by , "Memory and the imagination are the gifts that keep on giving in The Madonnas of Leningrad, an exceptional debut novel by Seattle writer Debra Dean."
"Review" by , "A thoughtful tragedy that morphs into a tear-jerker in the third act."
"Review" by , "Gracefully shifting between the Soviet Union and the contemporary Pacific Northwest, first-time novelist Dean renders a poignant tale about the power of memory."
"Review" by , "Dean writes with passion and compelling drama about a grotesque chapter of World War II."
"Review" by , "[A] poetic novel."
"Review" by , "Dean merges past and present in prose that shines like the gilt frames in the hermitage....[T]his novel of memory and forgetting glows with love and hope."
"Review" by , "Exquisitely crafted and deeply satisfying."
"Review" by , "[A] remarkable first novel about the consolation of memory."
"Synopsis" by , In this sublime debut novel, set amid the horrors of the siege of Leningrad in World War II, a gifted writer explores the power of memory to save...and betray.
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