The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
A Novel

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Synopsis

Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina's grip on the everyday. An elderly Russian woman now living in America, she cannot hold on to fresh memories—the details of her grown children's lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild—yet her distant past is miraculously preserved in her mind's eye.

Vivid images of her youth in war-torn Leningrad arise unbidden, carrying her back to the terrible fall of 1941, when she was a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum and the German army's approach signaled the beginning of what would be a long, torturous siege on the city. As the people braved starvation, bitter cold, and a relentless German onslaught, Marina joined other staff members in removing the museum's priceless masterpieces for safekeeping, leaving the frames hanging empty on the walls to symbolize the artworks' eventual return. As the Luftwaffe's bombs pounded the proud, stricken city, Marina built a personal Hermitage in her mind—a refuge that would stay buried deep within her, until she needed it once more. . . .

Includes an excerpt from Debra Deans The Mirrored World.

 

About Debra Dean

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A native of Seattle, Debra Dean worked as an actor in the New York theatre for nearly a decade before becoming a writer. She lives in Miami and teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Florida International University.
 
Published October 13, 2009 by HarperCollins e-books. 256 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Madonnas of Leningrad

Kirkus Reviews

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The story of the older Marina—mustering her failing powers in a war for dignity, struggling to make reality without recollection—makes the war sequences seem almost hackneyed in comparison.

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The Guardian

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The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean 232pp, Fourth Estate, £10.99 In her first novel, Debra Dean paints a powerful portrait of a woman with Alzheimer's, a disease that makes the past an increasingly persistent intrusion on the present.

Jul 01 2006 | Read Full Review of The Madonnas of Leningrad: A ...

Book Reporter

The stories are interlayered so that the reader is led to recognize --- slowly, at first, and then unmistakably --- that the past devastation of the Hermitage is paralleled in the slow collapse of Marina's own "memory palace."

Jan 07 2011 | Read Full Review of The Madonnas of Leningrad: A ...

The Bookbag

Son Andrei, in more frequent contact, is practical - seeing the slow onslaught, he is seeking to find a sanctuary for his mother - not understanding that that is the last thing she needs.

Nov 18 2014 | Read Full Review of The Madonnas of Leningrad: A ...

USA Today

Nearly 2,000 employees and family members lived in the museum's damp basement and worked tirelessly to pack up and relocate more than 1 million works of art.

Mar 17 2013 | Read Full Review of The Madonnas of Leningrad: A ...

BookPage

The Madonnas of Leningrad, the first novel by Seattle professor Debra Dean, is the story of Marina, a young museum docent who takes refuge in the Hermitage during the 1941 siege of Leningrad.

Apr 15 2015 | Read Full Review of The Madonnas of Leningrad: A ...

Bestsellersworld

However, the reader soon realizes that not only do the tour passages set up the theme for the next part of the story, they are also Marina's life line to her mind.

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About.com

A carefully constructed and sparsely told novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad tells the story of the siege of Leningrad through the deteriorating mind of a woman who survived the war as a staff member hiding in the cellar of the Hermitage...Review of The Madonnas of Leningrad

May 30 2006 | Read Full Review of The Madonnas of Leningrad: A ...

Story Circle Book Reviews

Her vignettes of the rooms in the Hermitage in Leningrad are startlingly vivid, especially when one realizes that the young Marina is reenacting her tours from memory as she faces the empty frames of the great art which has been sent to safe keeping in the event that the Germans reach Leningrad.

Apr 17 2007 | Read Full Review of The Madonnas of Leningrad: A ...

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