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The Madonnas of Leningrad

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/ Lead title / Includes PS Section A brilliant and moving debut novel about one woman's struggle to preserve an artistic heritage from the horrors and destruction of World War II, and the ensuing lifelong memories from this extraordinary experience. / Narrated by an elderly Alzheimer's sufferer, 'The Madonnas of Leningrad' is a stunning and deeply moving debut from the brilliant new literary sensation, Debra Dean. / Will appeal to fans of Sebastian Faulks and Tracey Chevalier. / Based on extensive research, 'The Madonnas of Leningrad' brings to life World War II for a generation unfamiliar with war-torn Russia. / Competition: Tracey Chevalier; Sebastian Faulks

About the Author

Debra Dean worked as an actor in the New York theatre for nearly a decade before opting for the life of a writer. She lives with her husband in Seattle, where she teaches literature and writing. This is her first novel.


As a young woman, Marina became a docent, guiding Soviet citizens through the treasures of the Hermitage Museum. Through the 900-day siege of Leningrad beginning in 1941, her knack for describing in great detail the images of the works of Italian Renaissance painter Titian and Flemish Baroque painter Rubens helped her survive when thousands of others died. Later, she and her husband fled westward and settled in the United States. As this first novel by Dean, a Seattle college teacher, opens, Marina is living in the tattered shreds of her memory. Her elusive grasp of the present and her meticulous recollections of a long-suppressed past are in delicate opposition. Memory, once her greatest ally, is now her betrayer. Like her adoring museum audiences 60 years earlier, readers will absorb Marina's glorious, lush accounts of classical beauties as she traces them in her mind. Dean eloquently depicts the ravages of Alzheimer's disease and convincingly describes the inner world of the afflicted. Spare, elegant language, taut emotion, and the crystal-clear ring of truth secure for this debut work a spot on library shelves everywhere. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/05.]-Barbara Conaty, Moscow, Russia Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

'An unforgettable story of love, survival and the power of imagination in the most tragic circumstances. Elegant and poetic, the rare kind of book that you want to keep but you have to share.' Isabel Allende 'A luminescent debut! "The Madonnas of Leningrad" recalls Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections" and deserves similar success. This is a novel that dares to be beautiful and fully succeeds.' Daily Mail 'The real achievement of Dean's novel lies beyond descriptions of Alzheimer's, sensitive and elegantly done though they are![Dean] has brought the siege of Leningrad to dramatic, desperate life!this breathtaking novel shows that epiphanies can take place anywhere.' Guardian 'A taut and boldly unsentimental tale, Dean's glistening debut plumbs the twin mysteries of memory and the imagination.' Observer 'An extraordinary debut, a deeply lovely novel that evokes with uncommon deftness the terrible, heartbreaking beauty that is life in wartime!Dean's exquisite prose shimmers with a haunting glow, illuminating us to the notion that art itself is perhaps our most necessary nourishment.' Chang-Rae Lee, New York Times Bestselling author of 'Aloft' 'Vibrant!Dean, making her debut, weaves Marina's past and present together effortlessly!Memory, the hopes one pins on it and the letting go one must do around it all take on real poignancy, giving the story a satisfying fullness.' Publishers Weekly 'As we shift back and forth between her vivid memories of that time and particularly of the artwork that she guarded with her life, and her present-day existence seen dimly through the veil of Alzheimer's, the tragedy of both her past and her present becomes apparent.' Sunday Business Post '"The Madonnas of Leningrad" recalls Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections", and deserves similar success. This is a novel that dares to be beautiful - and fully succeeds. The suggestively-named Marina is a wonderful creation, and through her eyes we are invited to gaze again on the best of Rubens, Da Vinci and Rembrandt. Yet Dean's prose is anything but purple, a fact that makes this quiet yet resonant novel more impressive still.' Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail 'A beautifully painted debut that has 'book group' and 'Anthony Minghella' written all over it.' SHE 'Every once in a while a new book comes along with the power to halt you in your tracks -- "The Madonnas of Leningrad" is just such a book. Breathtaking and heartbreaking by turns. This is Dean's first novel and it is an accomplished debut.' Waterstones Books Quarterly

Russian emigre Marina Buriakov, 82, is preparing for her granddaughter's wedding near Seattle while fighting a losing battle against Alzheimer's. Stuggling to remember whom Katie is marrying (and indeed that there is to be a marriage at all), Marina does remember her youth as a Hermitage Museum docent as the siege of Leningrad began; it is into these memories that she disappears. After frantic packing, the Hermitage's collection is transported to a safe hiding place until the end of the war. The museum staff and their families remain, wintering (all 2,000 of them) in the Hermitage basement to avoid bombs and marauding soldiers. Marina, using the technique of a fellow docent, memorizes favorite Hermitage works; these memories, beautifully interspersed, are especially vibrant. Dean, making her debut, weaves Marina's past and present together effortlessly. The dialogue around Marina's forgetfulness is extremely well done, and the Hermitage material has depth. Although none of the characters emerges particularly vividly (Marina included), memory, the hopes one pins on it and the letting go one must do around it all take on real poignancy, giving the story a satisfying fullness. (On sale Mar. 14) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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