Sunday, September 13, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
The Madonnas of Leningrad
I just finished reading "The Madonnas of Leningrad" by Debra Dean, 2006, Harper. It is the story -- or stories -- of Marina Buriakov. The primary story is of her life in Leningrad during World War II where she worked as a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum. It portrays her life as the German's approach signals the beginning of the war and all that transpires thereafter. The subplot involves Marina as a grandmother attending her granddaughters wedding. Marina has alzheimers that is waging another sort of war in her life. Both stories are depicted in great, painful detail. The book is well written but, as I said, painful. You ache for the youth who is doing her best to survive in impossible times. You weep for the elderly lady who, after going through all she went through before, has to keep fighting. It is almost a relief when the book ends. It isn't a long book and it is a fairly easy read given that it goes back and forth between the past and present with each chapter. It is a sad book. I would recommend it because it is well written but be forewarned that it produced much emotion.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Mona Lisa Smile
After I went to the grocery store, did a couple of loads of laundry, did a load of dishes and dusted the house I decided to reward myself by watching a movie. I had already missed the President's message to students because I was running errands so I thought I would sit down and just enjoy something.
I chose to watch a movie that my daughter had loaned me -- one of her favorites -- probably because one of her goals is to teach college. So, I began "Mona Lisa Smile" with Julia Roberts. I remember wanting to see this when it came out but somehow missed it -- probably because it was something that AW wouldn't particularly enjoy although I don't know why. At any rate, it is the story of Kathryn Watson, an art history professor who, in 1954, relocates to Wellesley from California and finds her progressive self smack in the middle of mid-century tradition and mores. Her students challenge her from the beginning, shake her resolve and, by the end of the movie love her dearly. There are a couple of subplots -- Watson's own failed romantic life, and the lives of a couple of her students outside of school. Maggie Gyllenhall is the loose living girl, sleeping her way through her degree, Julia Stiles is the young woman who longs for Harvard Law School and Kirsten Dunst is the angry young woman who learns all too early what being a "good wife" means. It all ends well, very predictably, but it was a good movie. The scenery was gorgeous.
I found it to be a somewhat depressing movie, however. Being a child of the 50's I remember it as a more innocent time. It was, in my memory, quite idyllic. I do remember my mother saying that "in her day" all women could do, for the most part, was be nurses, teachers, or telephone operators, if they worked at all, each job having it's own "tag" so to speak. The desired position was, above all, housewife. It sounded different coming from her than it seemed in this movie. The constraints of the era were boldly displayed in this film and it made me feel sorry for the women who came before me.