Author: Debra Dean
Hardcover: 243 pages
Published date: August 2012
FTC: Asked to review for TLC Book Tours
When I heard Debra Dean had a new novel, I jumped at the chance to join in the TLC Tour for her book. I really enjoyed her previous novel The Madonnas of Leningrad (my review) which had garnered a lot of praise. It was a bit of change to jump from my dark R.I.P. books and into a historical fiction, but I think that since I read the YA fantasy Shadow and Bone with all it's Russian elements helped. But I've always loved books set in Russia and once I was into the story I read it in just a few days.
I usually just go with the publisher's synopsis because I normally think they do an awesome job of describing the book. This time I'm not so sure. If you want the normal Back of the Book, head over to TLC. Here's my synopsis:
Set in 18th Century Russia, this story follows the life of Dasha and her two cousins Xenia and Nadya who become almost like sisters to her. Dasha tells the whole story from her perspective and looking back in time so there is a bit foreshadowing sometimes. Dasha is the youngest and by far the plainest and most unassuming of the three. Nadya, quite smug and the eldest gets married off first. Dasha's obviously favorite cousin, though, is eccentric Xenia. She does what she wants, quite often going against social conventions. Xenia catches the eye of Andrei, a beautifully gifted singer in the Empress's choir, and the two are soon married.
The rest of the book is filled with Dasha looking at Xenia's almost idyllic life of being in love and married. She witnesses the delayed but much anticipated birth of Xenia's baby girl and then the tragic deaths of Xenia's little family which causes Xenia to spiral into a deep depression followed by Xenia's becoming almost saint-like in giving away all her fortunes and living and serving among the poor.
Just liked The Madonnas of Leningrad, Debra Dean proves herself to be a beautiful writer who just immerses me into the life and culture of Russia. The first thing I just loved was all the interesting Russian events that happened. For instance, the first part of the story where Dasha witnesses one of the Empress's advisers who had displeased her and was made the court jester and married off to a hunchback old lady and who were made to spend their wedding night in a frozen ice palace. Crazy! I kept getting confused too on who was Empress at the time -- Anna, Catherine, and bunch of odd rulers in between, but it seemed like it must have been a confusing time for the Russian people as well.
I find it odd that the back of the book synopsis doesn't even mention Dasha even though the entire book is written from her perspective. I also didn't know until I had finished the book and was reading blurbs that Xenia was sainted. It would be curious to read this book from a mental health perspective -- how in her insane grief she became a "holy fool" -- was she sane or did she really lose her sanity? Was she really having visions? It's all quite interesting.
My favorite part of the book actually had to with Dasha's life. While Xenia was interesting, I was wanting more stories about Dasha's life. The stories included were really good and I enjoyed her character and how she kind of took Xenia's legacy and helped people as well.
My only complaint with this novel is pretty much what I had with The Madonnas of Leningrad. It seems like Debra Dean is comfortable writing short stories and it comes out in her novels. I had wished her previous novel was a bit fuller and longer. I don't have a problem with the length of The Mirrored World but it did seem like a compilation of short stories...which in this case worked ok. It's just not what I was expecting in a novel.
Debra’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, August 28th: Historical Tapestry - “Why I Love …” Guest Post
Wednesday, August 29th: Reflections of a Bookaholic
Thursday, August 30th: Unabridged Chick
Monday, September 3rd: Lit and Life
Wednesday, September 5th: Diary of an Eccentric
Thursday, September 6th: Booktalk & More
Monday, September 10th: The Book Garden
Wednesday, September 12th: Chaotic Compendiums
Thursday, September 13th: Man of La Book
Thursday, September 13th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, September 17th: BookNAround
Tuesday, September 18th: Twisting the Lens
Wednesday, September 19th: A Library of My Own
Thursday, September 20th: The Written World
Monday, September 24th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, September 25th: West Metro Mommy
Wednesday, September 26th: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, September 27th: Raging Bibliomania