For the most part, The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean takes place in Leningrad (modern-day St. Petersburg) during the first year of the 900-day German siege of the city, which began in 1941. During our meeting in February we saw photographs of the starving people and the horrific conditions during that time in Leningrad. We also viewed color plates of some of the artwork in the Hermitage Museum.
The events in the book are related by an elderly woman who was a docent at the Hermitage before and during the siege. Although she suffers from Alzheimer’s and cannot remember anything in her present life, she remembers the artwork and furnishing of all the rooms in the museum in minute detail.
We had an exciting discussion about the book, which all us liked, in spite of the Alzheimer’s aspect.