Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina's grip on the everyday. An elderly Russian woman now living in America, she cannot hold on to fresh memories - the details of her grown children's lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild - yet her distant past is miraculously preserved in her mind's eye.
Vivid images of her youth in war-torn Leningrad arise unbidden, carrying her back to the terrible fall of 1941, when she was a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum and the German army's approach signaled the beginning of what would be a long, torturous siege on the city. As the people braved starvation, bitter cold, and a relentless German onslaught, Marina joined other staff members in removing the museum's priceless masterpieces for safekeeping, leaving the frames hanging empty on the walls to symbolize the artworks' eventual return. As the Luftwaffe's bombs pounded the proud, stricken city, Marina built a personal Hermitage in her mind - a refuge that would stay buried deep within her, until she needed it once more....
If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.
©2006 Debra Dean (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers
This is a GEM of a book! It talks non-judgmentally of human frailties yet expands on the unfathomable strength of the need to survive in most people. The injustices of war and the meaningless posturing of waring nations (or the people in charge) which only goes towards disruption, destruction and death. We should ask - and for what purpose? It tracks two people's lives during and after the invasion into Russia by Germany. Beautifully written with well informed comments about Art, sweet tender responses to the aging process and how the younger members react.A wonderful book which I did not want to end. The narrator was superb with just enough Russian inflection without it being overdone. I highly recommend this book!!
This book is probably best read from a printed book rather than audio. Why? Because it's written in a kind of "stream of consciousness" manner that uses the elderly character's dementia as the vehicle that tells the story. Confused? So was I. I recently visited the Hermitage in St. Petersburg (Leningrad) so I thought this would be a good book about how the museum's art work survived the cruel siege. However, it really wasn't that kind of book. The setting is present day America, but the protagonist's mind keeps slipping back to the siege of 1941. Because of the seamless and without warning changes from present day to 1941, the book was confusing. Because of that, I would recommend this book in the form of a printed book. The author had some great descriptions of paintings and the paintings' emotional connection to the protagonist. The ending was abrupt and did not resolve anything for the character's family members. It was as if the author got tired of writing and just quit. At any rate, the narrator did a superb job, but the story was just okay. I think the author's idea to use an elderly person's dementia as a tool to introduce flashbacks was very clever, but it was empty at the end because the other family members were left in the dark regarding the character's past life. So I give this book 3 stars, it was okay, but could have been a lot better.
This book is well written, flowing, intriguing. The blending of recollection into the narrative is stunning. It captures so well the way recollection feels -- its unevenness, its gaps, its uncertainties, and yet, its extraordinary power over the present.
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