The Madonnas of Leningrad is about a woman, Marina, who survived the German blockade of Leningrad and is now remembering that time as she loses here current memories to Alzheimer's disease. That kind of a description would normally make me avoided reading a novel because I find books about Alzheimer's too depressing. But this was the March selection for the Reno Newcomers club book club so I got the book from the library.
I am so glad I read it. It is amazingly not depressing but instead is a beautiful uplifting novel. Marina was a tour guide at the Hermitage, Leningrad's immense art museum. During the German bombing and the blockade she and other museum workers lived with their families in the basement of the Hermitage. Her detailed memories of the Hermitage and its art make them come alive. I especially loved the method one of the old Babushkas taught Marina to help her remember the art that had been evacuated from the museum.
"When I was a girl, we made memory palaces to help us memorize for our examinations. You chose an actual place, a palace worked best, but any building with lots of rooms would do, and then you furnished it with whatever you wished to remember."
As the winter and the starvation of that winter progressed Marina built a mind memory palace of the Hermitage and its art.
I missed the book club meeting because my grandson is here visiting but I'm really glad I read Madonnas of Leningrad. Its art, love and poetry made me feel good.
This is my 7th book this year. My list is here.