One of the things I love about being part of a book club is that it expands my reading selections.
I work my way through books that I probably would never have read otherwise. I'm motivated to finish within a deadline, and to be prepared to delve deep into the meaning the author intended.
Such is the case of "The Madonnas of Leningrad" by Debra Dean.
The novel shifts between two time periods: Current day where Marina shifts in and out of reality from the effects of Alzheimer's, and 1941 during the 900 day siege of Leningrad.
Marina participated in preserving the artwork of the Hermitage, which housed many of Europe's greatest treasures, from the advancing German army.
She and the other women commit to memory each piece of artwork, creating a "Memory Palace" in an attempt to eventually restore the Hermitage.
Through Marina's work we see the effects of war, starvation and the devastation of Leningrad.
Debra Dean writes well. I was transported through her words to Russia of WWII, a place I knew very little about.
I once had the opportunity to visit the Hermitage in what is now St. Petersburg. We chose instead to spend our day at Catherine's Palace. Other's in our group, a niece majoring in Art History, was thrilled to walk the halls of the Hermitage. In reading this book, I thought of our tour guide, a somewhat feisty older Russian woman who had survived so much, and educated us on the changes of Russia in her lifetime. The stories she could tell. In my mind, when I think of Marina, I picture a woman very much like our guide.
If you are looking for a good book for your own book club, I'd recommend The Madonnas of Leningrad.