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24 February, 2006
In her First Book, The Madonnas of Leningrad, Debra Dean brings us a magical story. The main character, Marina serves as a bridge between the modern day and war torn Leningrad during World War II. The modern day Marina, is old. She lives in America, has raised a family, and is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She has numerous problems with her short term memory. She keeps forgetting who her children and their families are, and comparing the things that she sees now to how she lived during the war. She is slowly retreating into her memories and becoming her younger self in thought. The younger Marina is a museum tour guide, is in love, lives through much hardship, and finds herself struggling to keep herself, her aunt and uncle and her unborn child alive during a time of very little food.
As an artist and a former art history student I was blown away by the descriptions of the Hermitage Museum, and of the paintings that are described as Marina builds herself a memory palace of the museum so it does not get lost after the war ends. This was a sweet and moving story of love and hardship both during World War II, and in the present day as Marina's husband and children struggle to cope with her moving away from them into the past.
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: March 2006