Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Madonnas of Leningrad

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The Madonnas of Leningrad

by Debra Dean

The Madonnas of Leningrad
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2006, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2007, 256 pages

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Beyond the Book

Debra Dean worked as an actress in the New York theater for nearly a decade before opting for the life of a writer and teacher. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. She says that the inspiration behind her first novel was a PBS series on the Hermitage Museum in 1995. The following day she recorded in her journal, "I was particularly struck by one incident which might make a story (even a novel, but for the research)."

The story she referred to was about a former staff member of the Hemitage who, like nearly 2000 other staff and their families, spent the winter of 1941 living in the basement of the museum while the Nazis besieged the city. Millions of pieces of art had been evacuated but, as a pledge that the art would return, the frames had been left in place. It is said that this former guide gave tours of the empty museum to visitors, describing each painting so well that visitors could almost see them.

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