Thursday, May 22, 2014

Brown Bag Book Club

The Brown Bag Book Club is now reading The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean. The club next meets on Tuesday, June 17, and anyone (everyone!) is welcome to read it and then participate in the discussion over lunch!  The Brown Baggers always meet on the third Tuesday of the month at the Central Library, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

Her granddaughter's wedding should be a time of happiness for Marina Buriakov. But the Russian emigre's descent into Alzheimers has she and her family experiencing more anxiety than joy. As the details of her present-day life slip mysteriously away, Marina's recollections of her early years as a docent at the State Hermitage Museum become increasingly vivid. When Leningrad was under siege at the beginning of World War II, museum workers--whose families were provided shelter in the building's basement--stowed away countless treasures, leaving the paintings' frames in place as a hopeful symbol of their ultimate return. Amid the chaos, Marina found solace in the creation of a memory palace, in which she envisioned the brushstroke of every painting and each statue's lines and curves. Gracefully shifting between the Soviet Union and the contemporary Pacific Northwest, first-time novelist Dean renders a poignant tale about the power of memory. Dean eloquently describes the works of Rembrandt, Rubens, and Raphael, but she is at her best illuminating aging Marina's precarious state of mind: It is like disappearing for a few moments at a time, like a switch being turned off, she writes. A short while later, the switch mysteriously flips again. --Allison Block,  copyright 2006

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