Tag Archives: book critiques

The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean

The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean…I give it Four Stars!

“Sometimes it requires all her wits to piece together the world with the fragments she is given: an open can of Folgers, a carton of eggs on the counter, the faint scent of toast.”

And, so, begins the story of Marina, a woman caught between her past, and her present, as her life weaves back and forth, memories often overlapping the lines between the here and now. From 1941 Leningrad, and the German siege that follows, to relocating to America, the book resounds with ghostly images of starvation, bombings, and paintings by the great Masters of old.

Marina is one of the tour guides in the Hermitage Museum, one of a few staff members who are responsible for packaging up the great paintings, themselves, while leaving the frames on the walls, as a reminder of what was, and what eventually would be returned to its proper place in the Hermitage.

In order to escape the ravages of war, Marina creates a “Memory Palace” in her mind, remembering and visualizing each painting, each stroke of the brush, of the Madonnas and angels within the paintings. The minutes and hours pass by, and life is created within Marina’s mind, often blurring the borders of reality and fantasy. These fantasy images are what help her to get through her horrific situation, both during the war, and during the last years of her life, when the past takes over the present, guiding and comforting her towards the end of days.

Dean bring us a poignant novel of wartime, a beautiful, yet ghostly reminiscence of what was, and how we deal with the emotional pain of loss. She gives us food for thought, and her compelling images leave us to wonder about emotional borders, and where the line ends, or begins, between fantasy and reality.

~~Book Diva

© Copyright – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my expresss written consent/permission.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

The Zahir, by Paul Coelho

The Zahir, by Paul Coelho…I give it Four Stars!

Paul Coehlo has managed to capture the emotions of a man in search of his missing wife, but, in the end, realizes that he was searching for his own Self.

“Zahir, in Arabic, means visible, present, incapable of going unnoticed…someone or something, which once we come in contact with, gradually occupies our every thought until we can think of nothing else, considered a state of holiness or madness.”

The narrator is obsessed with finding his wife, and wonders if she ran off on her own, was she kidnapped, has she been murdered, etc. He is also obsessed with his own independence and freedom, and will do almost anything to be free, including having affairs, and going out of his way to make sure that what he considers his independence is not hindered in any way.

The narrator meets the man, named Mikhail, who his wife disappeared with. Being a man of privilege and celebrity, and a man used to getting and having his way, the narrator wants Mikhail to lead him to his wife, immediately. This does not happen, and in a series of meetings, and talks, we see the narrator begin to realize the substance of life, the emotional and spiritual substance of who we are, of who and of what he is comprised of.

The narrator, obsessively, yet slowly, finds his way towards his wife, and in an almost parallel way, finds his own sense of independence. He is both a man who journeys through madness and obsessiveness, towards love and spirituality.

Bravo to Coelho for always searching and questioning.

~~~Book Diva

© Copyright – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my expresss written consent/permission.

4 Comments

Filed under Authors, General, Literature/Fiction