Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean

Based on a true story during the siege of Leningrad, when the employees of the Hermitage Museum saved the collection from destruction from the advancing German army and lived in the basement.  When the art was removed from the Hermitage, the workers left the frames in place to symbolize that it would return.   In present day, Marina, who had been a tour guide at the museum, and her husband, a close friend since childhood, have long lived in the United States where they have raised two children.  Her granddaughter’s marriage sets the couple off on a physical trip but interiorly, Marina is on her own memory journey as Alzheimer’s disease begins to seriously affect her mind.  During the long siege, Marina learned from an elderly cleaner how to memorize the entire collection and call it forth in her mind as she looks at the empty frames.  In a similar fashion, she calls forth her past life, which has been largely kept secret from her children and is rarely discussed with her husband.  An intriguing interweaving of memory and reality.  231 pp.

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