Monday, August 25, 2008

Madonna's Of Leningrad

I read the Madonnas of Lenigrad by Debra Dean. This book was selected by Bookclubgirl.com. You can listen here
The author joined blogradio as well.
But on to the review.
The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean is the story about Marina, and her memory She is Russian.
The story flashes back and forth from memory from WW2 and the present. Marina is going with her husband and her daughter Helen to her grand daughter's wedding.
We realize that things are not right about her.
She seems confused, and her memory reverts back to WW2 and certain things don't connect right. Her memory is locked only she know what is truth.
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Certain times, Marina has flashbacks in her memory and take her back to her days as a young woman in Russia during WW2, with the invasian of Germany. Marina is a docent and takes people on tour at the Heritage Museum. There are pictures that have been rescued while the war is going on. The pictures are taken but the frames are left almost as a reminder that they will be back. The Madonna paintings are remembered in detail by Marina. This is all committed to memory. Also there is a part where we wonder did she have sex with a g-d or with her husband it is never answered.
I thought this was a good connection with the book. And now the present, the daughter becomes the nuturing person. The museum's past, and the painter's past of the Madonna's, and the mother's past all represent memory. I really liked the connection. I thought the author did a good job connecting this with symbolism.
My favorite passage in the book is :
Marin is embarrassed to realize she has been muttering out load. Oh, I beg your pardon. It's nothing, a sort of game I paly.
To see how many paintings I can recall." You are building a memory place ?"
Marina has never heard of such a thing. They don't teach this in school anymore? Anya asks and clucks in display" When I was a girl, we had a memory palaces to help us memorize for our examinations. You chose a actual place, a palace worked best, but any building with lots of room would do, and then you furnished it with whatever you wished to remember."She goes back to her memory of her husband when he is a soldier, and her Uncle is starving and she has chocolate and has to decide to keep it for herself since she is stronger, or give it to him since he is weaker and will die and other terrible times during the invasion.
In the present, after the wedding she is missing after Marina husband, Demitri realizes she is not sleeping. A search party is formed and she is found later. After, the search party, find her. Helen sets the scene. Her mother beomes more confused, and then she has died and the family accepts her death. It is becomes a beautiful thing and a natural order of things. and she dies peacefully. When someon e you know gets dementia, the memory is locked but also there are stories that don't jive. In old age they tend to tell us the stories they never did when they were younger. They are not restrained and their tongue becomes loose.
I don't think many people can read this kind of book because it deals with old age, death and dying. This book would be good for a person going into the field of Gerontology maybe. But not for a person who has a elderly loved one.
But objectively, this was a good read. It was beautifully written. I probably would not have picked this book up myself because it was hard to read because it dealt with old age and dying. I still would like to thank bookclubgirl for sending me a copy. I wanted to be part of the program but I was unable to. My one question to the author was, where did she get the idea of Memory Palace. That was wonderful. That blew my mind. That was a great concept.
Next up on blogradio.com is by Ann Patchett in September. Hopefully, I will be there for that one.

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