This book jumps around between modern-day in the Seattle area, Leningrad in the early days of World War II, and the voice of a tour guide at The Hermitage.
During World War II, Marina is a young tour guide at the Hermitage. She was raised by her uncle and his wife after her dissident parents are jailed and gone forever. Her best friend Dmitri is in similar circumstances with his father taken away. They bonded together in their youth for support and have stayed best friends ever since. Dmitri is a student now and has joined the Volunteer Army. As Dmitri trains for war, Marina and the other employees of the Hermitage are packing up the paintings and other precious items for shipment someplace safe.
In the current day, Marina and Dmitri are old and getting ready for their grand-daughter's wedding. Marina has problems with her memory and Dmitri has taken on the task of caring for his wife entirely. He is determined to keep the worst of her problems from his children because their son wants to put them in "a home" but Dmitri has promised his wife that won't happen.
The voice of the tour guide crops up periodically taking us through her usual script of various rooms and paintings of the Hermitage. Over the course of the book we find that when Marina's brain checks out of the here and now, The Hermitage before and during the war is where it goes. She gives us an insight into the overwhelming beauty housed at the Hermitage, in itself a stunning building. She also gives us a view into the horrific life led by the people of Leningrad during the siege of the German Army.
I really enjoyed this book! This was a first book for Debra Dean and I would be happy to read more from here especially if it is historical fiction.