the madonnas of leningrad
by debra dean
“they were inseperable. until now. she is leaving him, not all at once, which would be painful enough, but in a wrenching succession of separations. one moment she is here, and then she is gone again, and each journey takes her a little farther from his reach. he cannot follow her, and he wonders where she goes when she leaves.”
okay, darlings. now, i swear i do not just adore every single book i read (sigh, the curious incident of the dog in the night-time). and i wish i could be more critical and discerning about books.
but i cannot lie. i loved this book. even though the first 20 pages contained not only an awkward sex scene and a marriage proposal before really diving into the characters. and there was that one part where marina, the main character, believes she was impregnated by zeus and stuff. but besides all of that, i loved it. it reminded me of a grown-up’s version of from the mixed up files of mrs. basil e. frankweiler.
it’s easy to see why i loved this book in particular. it basically has all of my favorite subjects within it:
1.world war II
2. russia/soviet union history.
3. russian grandmas.
5. intense amounts of imagination.
le sigh. what else could a girl need?
this book is about the main protagonist marina, who is a curator at the hermitage museum in leningrad (present day st. petersburg), during the german occupation of leningrad in world war two. it is based on a true story in which many of the citizens of the city had to live inside of the museum for refuge, and assist in packing up the museum to move the artwork, that filled the museum, to safety.
there are only two women who can still remember what paintings once filled the now empty frames that litter the floors of the hermitage, and the sculptures that were scattered within the confines; anya, an older curator whose weakness leads to her teaching marina how to build her own “memory palace” ( i loved, loved, loved the idea of memory palaces. so magical and imaginative), in order to one day remember the placement and stories of all the artwork so that the museum would be able to be restored once the occupation was over.
the one part of the novel that really caught my eye, was that the book is not only the story of marina as a young girl living through the german occupation, but it’s also a tale of her later years and her struggle with alzheimer’s. how her “memory palace” permeates into her life of alzheimer’s and blurred memory makes this such a beautifully written book and it just really blew me away. i’m not even going to lie. and i’m most likely going to be author stalking debra dean until she writes another book
(don’t worry, i won’t check your trash cans).
if you are like me and love world war II/history/ art history novels, you’d also love…
suite francaise (triple love this book)
the lost painting (non-fiction)
parallel journeys (non-fiction)
the kitchen boy: a novel of the last tsar (quadruple love)
what have you been reading lately, lovelies?!
i hope you all had a lovely weekend.