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The Madonnas of Leningrad: A Novel

The Madonnas of Leningrad: A Novel

Escrito por Debra Dean

Narrado por Yelena Shmulenson


The Madonnas of Leningrad: A Novel

Escrito por Debra Dean

Narrado por Yelena Shmulenson

avaliações:
4/5 (80 avaliações)
Comprimento:
7 horas
Editora:
Lançado em:
Sep 18, 2012
ISBN:
9780062246172
Formato:
Audiolivro

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Descrição

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...

A HarperAudio production.

Editora:
Lançado em:
Sep 18, 2012
ISBN:
9780062246172
Formato:
Audiolivro

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Também disponível como livroLivro

Sobre o autor

Debra Dean worked as an actor in New York theater for nearly a decade before opting for the life of a writer and teacher. She and her husband now live in Miami, where she teaches at the University at Miami. She is at work on her second novel.


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  • (4/5)
    Read for book club. I suspect I am in the minority here, but I thought the present day chapters, where Marina is suffering from Alzheimers, were the strongest. The way Dmitri cared for her despite his frustrations, and Marina attempted to make sense of the people and situations around her, were very well done. The chapters set in Leningrad in 1941 (and the constant switching between the two got to be a bit much) were also powerful at times, but the artworks never really came alive for me (and there were pages devoted to them). The jump from 1941 to the present day with just a quick description of Marina and Dmitri's miraculous reunion in a refugee camp felt as if a whole chunk of the story was missing. The fact that Dmitri had to pretend to be a Ukrainian Pole was almost the most interesting fact in the novel for me - I wish there had been more on their adjustment to life in the US. Helen comments that she cannot reconcile the photograph of the mother from before the war with the woman who brought her up, and I sympathize.
  • (5/5)
    I love this book. The vivid descriptions of the art work are wonderful. The author weaves the old woman's memories with the current events in her life in a realistic yet poetic way.
  • (4/5)
    I'll give The Madonnas of Leningrad a big thumbs up for its sad yet realistic depiction of The Siege of Leningrad and one of its survivors, Marina, an elderly woman, now suffering from another type of siege, an assault on her short term memory.Prior to the siege, Marina was a tour guide at The Hermitage. In preparation for an attack by the Germans she then assisted in the removal of the art work she had come to love and know so well, storing it in a safe haven. Marina was once an art student, then a tour guide at the The Hermitage in Leningrad but now, long after the horrors of The Siege, when her and her husband can enjoy life as empty nesters in Seattle and enjoy celebrations with their grandchildren, Marina begins to battle dementia. She can not recall her daughter, her husband must help her dress and cook for her but she does remember Leningrad. The suffering, the cold, the lack of food, the family and friends who did not survive and she remembers the paintings. She remembers the grand staircase, the statues, the murals on the ceiling but most of all, she remembers the Madonnas and the artists who painted them and the back stories involved with each painting.I have read a few books concerning Alzheimer's and a couple of books regarding the siege but nothing like this novel which takes an horrendous period of time and gives it back to a survivor to live over again in her waning days. Yet, the beauty of this story lies in the memories of Art and how in the most dire of days the remembrance of what is beautiful and the ability to imagine it all again seems to act as an armor from what is bad.Well written, mesmerizing and, of course, sad yet through the acts of people like Marina we are, once again, able to enjoy the Madonnas and so much more.
  • (4/5)
    beautiful but so sad - entwined stories of decline into Alzheimers and the deprevations of the siege of Leningrad 1941-
  • (3/5)
    Disappointing with lots of potential. The premise is awesome, could have been a 5* if pulled together better. I loved the Russian historical aspect, and i understood that the main character was suffering from Alzheimers in the present day, but the disjointed jumping was distracting , I also think it would have been much better written from the perspective of Marina, not her daughter.She worked at the Hermitage during WW2, survived is the better word. Married her true love she kept her past locked up and stored away- much like the artwork she strived to save years before. I wish the book followed HER and her eventual decline as a priority. Too much other stuff thrown in as filler i feel.
  • (3/5)
    This book is a disorganized mess. It is a bunch of vignettes based on 2 themes searching for a plot. Some of the writing is beautiful regarding the art, and the environment, but the characters are paper thin. There are vignettes from the past about the main character's activities during WWII as a docent at the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad/St. Petersburg in Russia. Then there are vignettes set in a modern time with the character as an old woman with Alzheimers. The modern parts are rather bland and boring, in fact the whole book is bland and boring. The 2 parts never really connect up, nothing is explained or fleshed out.
  • (5/5)
    The Madonnas of Leningrad is a thin book, only 228 pages, but it leaves you feeling as though you traveled to a different time and place. In 1941, Marini was a tour guide at the Hermitage museum in Leningradbut the war has changed things and on Stalin's orders all the precious painting and sculptures are being packed up to send to safety. One day in despair Marini confides to a companion that she is forgetting all the beautiful paintings she has been so proud to present to the public. Her friend advises her to rebuild the art in her memory, a palace of paintings. Marini does just that and the descriptions of the art she is trying to remember, will haunt me.Shortly after her fiance, Dmitri, leaves for duty in the People's Army, the war goes badly for Russia and soon the unthinkable happens, Leningrad is being bombed, day and night. Marini and her companions speed up their packing and begin moving art to the basement to save it. Before long, she is a night spotter, standing on the roof of the Hermitage, watching for enemy planes and calling down to report them.The Siege of Leningrad lasted 900 days. With many of the houses unable to be occupied, Marini and the family she has left, retreat to the basement of the Hermitage, where they will live out most of the remainder of the war. Marini is cold, starved and in fear, but her palace of the Madonnas that graced the walls of the museum, give her something to rely on. More importantly, she discovers when she gives others 'tours' of these paintings, she describes them so vividly that other people 'see' them all. Marini survives the war and Dmitri does also, they meet again in a displacement camp and he arranges to get them out of Germany and to America at the war ends.Marini still walks the corridors of the Hermitage, glorying in the art that only she can see. Her life, after her children are grown becomes more and more her memories and finally, when her disease overcomes her, she only lives in the present, when someone, usually her husband draws her back. Her disease takes away the present, old age, illness, pain and leaves her and ultimately the reader with the memory of those glorious paintings, many of which have never been seen, in public again.
  • (3/5)
    An interesting read switching between an old woman in the present day suffering from Alzheimers to her past working in the Hermitage Museum at the Siege of Leningrad.

    A few historical inaccuracies, but a moving and haunting story of memory, art, and family.
  • (2/5)
    meh. I never got attached to the main character, so it was all meh to me.
  • (4/5)
    This is a very fondly written story about a woman who worked during WWII at the Ermitag in Leningrad (St Peterburg) and is suffering now from Alzheimer's as an old woman. The story switches between the memories of Leningrad and the decomposition nowadays. In Leningrad she had to wrap all kinds of art due to the war. Thereby she built a memory palace where she could recall every piece of it. Even during all stages of her Alzheimer's disease she was able to see all the art of the Ermitage vividely.Her husband and children try to comfort her during the stages of her disease even though they were rarely able to help her.I loved this story very much.
  • (4/5)
    As one can read from the summaries, this book is about a young woman's experiences during the Siege of Leningrad during WWII and her later descent into Alzheimer's. I found both stories to be compelling, but especially think the author did a good job of portraying Marina's confusion due to Alzheimers and the reaction of those around her at her granddaughter's wedding. It provided a great insight into the fact that we can never understand the past experiences of others especially our parents.I do believe this is a very well written novel; however, at times, I must admit that it didn't grip me as it should. I don't have a strong art background and quite frankly found some of the descriptions of the paintings tedious (I know those of you who are art lovers are going to disagree with that statement). This is a great novel for the lovers of historical fiction AND art.I would highly recommend The Siege: A Novel by Helen Dunmore which is also about the Siege of Leningrad.
  • (5/5)
    There are many things to like about this book: the insights it gives into the siege of Leningrad in 1941 and how it affected the population as their food stores were bombed by the Luftwaffe; its gentle treatment of Marina's oncoming Alzheimer's as her mind constantly interchanges the present with the past; the irony that a woman who had such a good memory decades before, who could mentally recreate the long galleries of the Hermitage museum where she worked, can now not identify her own daughter; the way Marina and her husband have never told their children of their war time experiences; and much more.Even though it covers so much territory, this is not a long book. There is a startling clarity as Marina remembers the various Madonnas that hung on the walls of the museum, describing them in detail.
  • (5/5)
    In Leningrad as a young woman, memories kept Marina alive during the siege and now a memory-eating disease is taking her away. The author paints vivid pictures of the cold, the fright, the hunger of WWII Russia and the cold and frightening illness that is taking her mind now.

    This book appealed to me personally, on so many levels.
    -My parents born in Ukraine(at that time Russia)and survived the WWII seige of the nazis.
    -Art-which I love, (and I also visited the Hermitage museum website, as some other reviewer's here did.) The author’s descriptions were magnificent.
    -Alzheimer's-I've been caring for my mom who has it. The author gives such an amazing impression of what the inner life of an Alzheimer's patient might be.

    My favorite passage, “The slow erosion of self has its compensations. Having forgotten whatever associations might dull her vision, she can look at a leaf and see it for the first time. Though reason suggests it otherwise, she has never seen this green before. It is wondrous. Each day the world is made fresh again, holy and she takes it in, in all its intensity, like a young child.”

    One can only hope.










  • (5/5)
    4.5 stars - Excellent book about a woman's descent into Alzheimer's, that focuses on what she DOES remember - her life as an art curator at the Hermitage during the Seige of Leningrad. Dean weaves a lovely portrait of a woman’s descent into Alzheimer’s and her “life” in a world no one else comprehends. At the same time, she informs us of the Seige of Leningrad and the heroic efforts of the staff of the Hermitage to save the priceless art works stored there. Of course, I cannot help but think of my mother. From her few bursts of conversation, speaking about documents, etc, she must be reliving her years at work. I have to wonder, what secrets was she privy to? What will we never understand about her life, though we were there with her in that time frame? And there are many questions left for the reader, as they are for the family who survives Marina. Who was “the god” who fathered Andrei? Did Dimitri ever really know the child was not his? Or is that just a trick of Marina’s mind? What happened to Olga? To Anya (who taught her about building a memory palace)? To Dimitri? (He’s not mentioned in the last chapter as having said his good-byes … did he already pass on?) How did she get to the camp? I think of all the things I don’t know about my parents – how they met, what their lives were like before we were a family – and now I’ll never know because they can no longer answer those questions. I’m not at all distressed by this book. The last chapter says it best: “Marina herself has left, though no one is able to pinpoint exactly when that happened, only that at some point she was no longer there.” Two years ago I was nearly frantic with worry and concern about my parents. Now I am completely at peace with the process. I completely understand how Helen feels. I wish I understood how my mother feels.
  • (4/5)
    A woman with Alzheimers disease flashes back to the siege of Leningrad, surviving with other war refugees in the tombs of the Hermitage.
  • (4/5)
    Principally set in the siege of Leningrad, The Madonnas of Leningrad is a thought-provoking book as what is left unsaid is as important as what is written or indeed spoken. A junior curator of the Hermitage gallery, Marina, works to save the paintings - or at least their memory - during the siege of Leningrad and the hardships it brought. A series of beautifully crafted descriptions of paintings of the Madonna and Child paintings provide a commentary on the horror of the period and Marina's experience of it. This is set into relief by the parallel story of Marina towards the end of her life where it becomes apparent that despite the superficial return to 'normality' much remains unspoken. A well written and pleasingly understated novel of memory, loss and love.
  • (2/5)
    This was a half-book. A story of an elderly woman who is suffering from Alzheimer's with her husband and children coping the best that they can. I appreciate the author's idea of flashbacks and retained memories, but I felt like I was never in the loop with what was happening. For some of the book I couldn't tell if it was Marina's actual memories or just a telling of her past. Most of the individuals were not fully developed or just unlikable in my opinion.

    Being at the bombing of Leningrad and caring for the paintings at the Hermitage Museum, is where Marina's story was at its best. However, many questions are opened up and then never fully developed.

    There is a lot of talk about individual paintings in the Museum and their importance to history but then it is never tied back to the story of Marina's escape from Russia, her marriage and her eventual bout with Alzheimer's. Why did she memorize the paintings, did it help bring them back after the war, how did she just happen upon her future husband at a prison camp, what happened to her uncle's children, etc. etc.

    Missing too much to enjoy.
  • (4/5)
    The book is about a woman, in the present who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Her short term memory is shot, but her long term memory, specifically relating to the time she was a docent at the Hermitage (and when she was sheltered there during The Siege of Leningrad,) is still sharp. The author does a great job of describing what someone with Alzheimer's might be going through and; the story has it's moments of triumph and poignancy. It's similar to WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (by Sara Gruen) and THE HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET (by Jaimie Ford) in that the narrative alternates between the protag in an earlier time and a "now" time when they are old; but TMOL has a little more dignity inherent to it in that it's not as obviously emotionally provocative. I spent quite a bit of time at The Hermitage Museum web-site, checking out the art and architecture mentioned in the book. The web-site is excellent, with high resolution digital images and virtual tours; but wow! how I would love to see the place and the art in person!
  • (4/5)
    I think I may have only given this book 3 stars if it hadn't been for the way this book tied into my memories of the Hermitage. I was in Russia a bit over a year ago now. I love Russia, and my month long trip was a dream come true. I spent a couple days in the Hermitage, and it was not nearly enough. I read this book not because of Russia, but because I am reading for the Mental Health Awareness Challenge, and this book was towards Alzheimer's. I wish I got more of the emotions and feelings about this women going through her disease, but what I got was lovely as well. I really love how the women can see the beauty in everything now---- dust floating in the air, the sun rays coming in. How many of us take the time to appreciate the beauty life has to offer?

    I think the author did a great job in portraying the main character slipping in and out of reality. I really enjoy (and I use this lightly because it's heart breaking) how she did a particular scene where the character feels like she is reliving her past and present at the same moment. The book in general is beautifully written. Her descriptions and word choice brings about a whole host of emotions throughout the novel.

    Despite this, the book feels disjointed and choppy, but this has to be taken with a grain of salt because it is supposed to be. The women is going deeper and deeper into her disease and so one moment she is with everyone and the next reliving her past with the siege of Leningrad.

    I'd like to know more about things in the story and incidents that took place; there's so much to the story that I'd like to continue. I feel like this could be my real life, begging my grandmother to tell me more stories and yet she simply does not or does not remember. I find it a huge shame, though understandable, that in this book the children know nothing of their parents' life during the war.

    Overall I think the book is good. I would've liked more though. But I still recommend this book--- especially if anyone has visited the Hermitage before. It's amazing how a few words the author write brings up clear memories of things I've seen in the museum. I am not a huge art fan, so I looked, but didn't study most of the paintings. I love the statues, and walls & ceilings, the Egyptian art, the armor, and I even clearly remember the paintings of the dead game---- I think I was particularly morbid back then. Everything I LOVED was of death, or the cut open game, or whatnot. I was drawn in by the portrayal of these things that were not beautiful but rather haunting or so ordinary that it took someone taking to time to portray it to make you see the beauty in it. Anyways, I'm rambling about things other than the book now. I do hope others read the book to experience these things as well.
  • (4/5)
    Count me in with those who really liked this book. I like the way the author showed me how Marina felt: there were passages which left me momentarily uncertain as to where and "when" I was, much as Marina was experiencing with her loss of memory. There are unanswered questions in the book: Andrei's birth, how the family end up in America. But, Marina, I am sure, can't explain these gaps. Again, the author helped me to genuinely empathise with her character through her style of writing.I also loved the imagery in the book: heating up bottles of ink with your hands; frames without pictures.And, I liked the way the characters searched for meaning in their lives: Uncle Viktor completing his book; Marina's Aunt planning an entire meal around an anticipated pat of butter; remembering the paintings was said to be the only thing keeping Anya alive. This reminded me of Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning"The way the characters wept over small things long after they stopped crying for the dead spoke about the need for people to feel some measure of control in thier lives. So, they mourned that over which they felt they had some control, and not over what was beyond them.I've read some non-fiction about the war years in Russia (such as All Hell Let Loose by Max Hastings), and found the portrayal of life in Leningrad very true to life. I look forward to reading more books by Debra Dean.
  • (4/5)
    The paintings in the Hermitage were evacuated shortly before the Siege of Leningrad. Marina commits them to memory (her “Memory Palace”) to sustain her spirit over that three year period. This is how Dean brings these paintings to life for the reader. You will not want to read this book without summoning the actual paintings on your computer screen. They are really the whole point of the book.One might even say that the advertising term, Borrowed Interest, applies to Madonnas of Leningrad, so central are the paintings to the emotional appeal of the story. Through Marina's eyes, we see an introspective Madonna by Simone Martini, the almost adolescent wonderment of da Vinci's Benois Madonna, and the ripe forms and rippling surfaces of a Madonna by Crannach the Elder. Marina's memories form a sensual tour of the Hermitage's paintings. My advice – make a list of all the paintings in Marina's “Memory Palace.” Then go back and look up the actual paintings. It is in these moments that Marina will seem most real.The story drifts between World War II and the present-day, suggesting the mental drift Marina suffers due to progressing Alzheimer's Disease. It also points out the rich and private lives we live apart from our families – spouses, siblings, and even children. The parts of the book that soar are the dream-like memories. By night the blimps in the sky “swim like enormous white whales through a dark sea. She is swimming with the whales.” This lyricism contrasts with the horror and deprivation endured by the starving inhabitants of besieged Leningrad. Unfortunately, the present-day segments of the story, while poignant, feel flat compared to the richness of the “Memory Palace.” Read this book if you love art history.
  • (5/5)
    Seldom do I read a page turner like this novel, so beautifully written and artfully constructed.Marina is a young Russian woman who is a guide in the Hermitage when WWII and the advancing Nazis threaten. She and her fellow workers must bundle all the hundreds of art-filled rooms’ objects into cases to be shipped out of the city for safe-keeping, leaving the museum bare to serve as a bomb shelter to the workers and their families.In chapters that alternate between that past and Marina’s American present, in which she is deteriorating from advanced Alzheimer’s, we experience the beauty of the Hermitage through Marina’s interior reminiscences as she builds a memory palace of the exhibition rooms and peoples the now empty walls and frames with the paintings – so many of them various Madonnas -- and furnishings that have been whisked away. The chapters segue into each other, merging past and present, like halves of a peach brought together to make a whole fruit.By the end of the novel, Marina’s daughter, Helen, tries to discover this unknown woman who birthed her but kept her own past private by sketching her repeatedly as Marina’s mental and physical wanderings off decline into the abyss of total loss and death.But in life, Marina preserved the world’s beauty unhoused from the museum, was able to “show” it to a group of young cadets, and to the last, as an old woman in the US, again “show” it to a young construction worker who discovers her asleep in the fireplace of the mansion he’s building. Marina takes his arm, points in all the directions of this palace he is constructing and says, "Look!” as if showing him the beauty in the world from within the suggestion of the future "memory palace" under construction. In a way, Marina becomes a Madonna who is but one of myriad works of art that we all are in the museum of the world. One of the most masterful novels I’ve had the pleasure to read this year – complete and satisfying, far-roving and domestic, a total examination of life, art, suffering, perseverance, and love.
  • (4/5)
    A haunting atmosphere inhabits this novel as an elderly woman with Alzheimer's remembers her youth in war-torn Leningrad. Marina was once a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum, where she worked surrounded by masterpieces of art, and on the eve of World War Two, she helped pack away these masterpieces for safekeeping. As the German army lay siege to Leningrad, the empty Hermitage became the home to Marina and her family, where they lived in the cellar, safe from bombs but not the shortages accompanied by war. Marina spends her time remembering the museum as it was before the war, memories that remain sixty years later, even as others are wiped away.
  • (5/5)
    A beautifully constructed tale of an elderly woman with Alzheimer's who remembers her past much more clearly than her present. Marina is attending a family wedding but she rarely recognizes her own daughter, much less the young couple of honor. Marina's present slips easily into the past, when she was a young woman during the siege of Leningrad, removing famous works of art in the Hermitage Museum from their frames for storage and protection from the ravages of war. She endeavors to remember them all, especially various depictions of the Madonna, as a way of enduring the incredibly harsh conditions of living in the museum's cellar. Dean weaves past and present brilliantly. Though numerous descriptions of pieces of art that may be unfamiliar to the reader can grow tiresome, the author's spare and delicate language perfectly captures Marina's youthful determination as well as the toll of Alzheimer's. Highly recommended.
  • (5/5)
    Author Debra Dean does a masterful job in telling the story of Marina against the backdrop of the siege of Leningrad during World War II. Elderly Marina, whose memory is failing, recalls vividly a time in her life that is largely unknown to her grown children, a time when food grew nearly nonexistent, when homes were bombed, when life itself was jeopardized, and when Marina was one of hundreds who were charged with saving the treasured art in the Hermitage Museum. This well-researched novel will intrigue and enlighten the reader as Marina’s present life fades away into the memories of the past.
  • (3/5)
    Good premise but don't like chapters that segue back and forth though time. Also, ending was incomplete. Too many unanswered questions.
  • (4/5)
    Marina works at the Hermitage in Leningrad during World War II. Her fiancé Dmitri leaves to fight at the front in the war, while Marina is trapped in the Russian city during the Siege of Leningrad. She and her aunt and uncle must move into the Hermitage with dozens of others. They are all staving to death, trying only to survive. The secondary plot deals with Dmitri and Marina’s adult daughter Helen and her struggle with her parents’ declining health. Marina has Alzheimer’s and as she looses her recent memories, those long buried memories from the war come to the surface. The combination of the war story and modern day disconnect between children and their parents works well. Immigrants who survived horrific events during the war don’t often want to rehash their heartbreak, but their children may not understand how their current actions have been formed by their past experiences if they never share them. I felt like the book was a bit short. There are so many more details that could have been included. I loved learning about the real events that happened during the siege. It’s a fictional story, but the author did some excellent research. I had no idea about this whole part of WWII and I’m still curious about it. BOTTOM LINE: A short but powerful story of the Siege of Leningrad. Read it if you are interested in learning more about WWII in Russia. "Hunger has eaten away the veneer of civilization, and people are not themselves.""Over the years, they have grown together, their flesh and their thoughts twining so closely that he cannot imagine the person he might be apart from her." 
  • (4/5)
    I greatly enjoyed this one. The themes involve memory, beauty, art, deprivation, love, the body and our physical needs, and the relationship between generations in a family. The author moves us back and forth in time from present day to the siege of Leningrad in the 1940's. It is a love story on many levels. Marina and Dimitri are childhood friends who fall in love and become engaged before he leaves for the front. She stays to protect the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum where she works and takes shelter. What ensues is inspiring and heartbreaking. While this story is being told, we also find the couple in their later years living in the United States and coming to terms with Marina's declining memory in which her starving time at the Hermitage is more present to her than the present. 4 stars
  • (4/5)
    This debut novel is the 2012 selection for "If All Rochester Reads.....", and the March 2012 selection for my book club. Consequently, I will have the opportunity to hear the author speak in Rochester this week. This story is a beautifully blended, historically interesting,poignant tale of the siege of Leningrad and its impact on the Hermitage, its artwork and staff, and it is also the story of what it might be like on the inside of Alzheimer's. The author, Debra Dean, does an absolutely marvelous job of making the transitions between the past and the present, using events in either to trigger the mental shift from the past to the present of the protagonist, Marina.
  • (2/5)
    I have a hard time understanding all the 4-star ratings. It was difficult to stick with this book to the end. Parts of it were boring, all the detailed art in the museum, etc. It skipped back and forth from present to past too many times. The story was poignant and sad, and the trauma the Leningrad population suffered was well described. It was not my favorite read that's for sure.