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The Mirrored World

3.17 of 5 stars 3.17  ·  rating details  ·  685 ratings  ·  188 reviews
The critically acclaimed author of The Madonnas of Leningrad (“Elegant and poetic, the rare kind of book that you want to keep but you have to share” —Isabel Allende), Debra Dean returns with The Mirrored World, a breathtaking novel of love and madness set in 18th century Russia. Transporting readers to St. Petersburg during the reign of Catherine the Great, Dean brilliant ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by Harper
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The Mirrored World is a very brief novel of St. Xenia of Russia. The narrator is Xenia's cousin, and through eyes we see a young Xenia wed to Colonel Andrey Fyodorovich Petrov. The marriage is a solid one, but tragedy strikes and Xenia's method of coping with it lead her to become a "holy fool", wandering the streets of St. Petersburg in her husband's old uniform.

OK, interesting subject matter, lyrical writing, nice sense of place and time (love the Russian setting); but in the end this one jus
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
I suspect this shall be one of those reviews that sounds like I didn't like the book, but I did for the most part, so make note of that. Debra Dean writes beautifully, and I never found my attention waning from The Mirrored World. However, the story really lacked any sort of emotional impact or connection, largely because of the over-brisk pacing and dull main character.

Let me start, however, with what kept The Mirrored World a positive read for me. For one thing, I am hugely into anything about
Expected Publication Date: August 28, 2012

The Mirrored World was kindly provided to me by Edelweiss for Harper.

Interested in more of my reviews? Visit my blog!

The Mirrored World tells the story of the life of Xenia, who later became the mysterious and holy figure St. Xenia of St. Petersburg. The story begins when she was a young child growing up in Russia, continues on with her marriage to Colonel Andrei Feodorovich Petrov, whom she loved terribly, and then her terrible grief after losing both h
aPriL eVoLvEs (ex-Groot)
Xenia and Nadya lose their home when a fire in St. Petersburg in 1736 burns down over 2,000 houses. They move in with their father's cousin in another part of St. Petersburg and share the bed of his daughter, Dasha, a very young child. Dasha screams when she meets Xenia, having been awakened in the middle of the night, because instead of seeing another little girl like herself, she thinks she sees a hunting wolf. Later, she grows to genuinely love her cousin, who turns out to be more of a soft-h ...more
Michael Lujan
Jan 22, 2014 Michael Lujan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in St Xenia, Russian culture, or historical fiction.
In general, I loved this book. Having come to close the back cover now, I almost feel as though the author was inspired directly by her subject (whom we Orthodox believe continues to intercede for us to God), so believable a picture did she paint of the most renowned of Russia's holy fools, or "Fools for Christ" (1 Corinthians 4:10), Blessed St. Xenia of St. Petersburg. Not only are we given a realistic portrayal of what it might be like to witness a person giving herself and her life utterly an ...more
3.0 out of 5 stars - a story of Russia's "holy fool"

This novel, set in 18th century Russia, is a reconstruction of the life and times of St. Xenia. She was born into the lower nobility and marries the love of her life during the extravagant years of the royal court in St. Petersburg. Tragedy strikes and Xenia leaves her home and possessions to lead a life of a mad fool caring for the poor and sick in the slums surrounding the city. She has a gift of foretelling the future and is both loved and f
Sarah Beth
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins. 2.5 stars

The Mirrored World is based on the life of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, who supposedly gave all her possessions to the poor after the death of her husband, and wandered the streets for 45 years wearing her husband's military uniform. Yet what the jacket cover of this novel fails to tell you is that this book is narrated by Xenia's cousin Dasha, and is largely about her life. Dasha provides a levelheaded account of events, particularly
Review of The Mirrored World by Debra Dean.

I was happy to have received an advanced readers copy of this novel through the goodreads giveaway.

"Yes, this was her house, many years ago, when she was still Xenia." So opens The Mirrored World by Debra Dean. I judge a book by the opening lines, just like I judge a book by it's cover (and The Mirrored World has a gorgeous cover), and this line caught me. It's the voice of an old woman remembering her past, it's the stray thought of someone closing th
Jan 31, 2013 Riya rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Lives of Saints; readers interested in Russian history; fans of historical fiction
Shelves: russia
When I first received this book by winning a Goodreads giveaway, I was hesitant to start reading it. This was partly because I had mistakenly thought this book was about something else when I first entered the giveaway, and partly because after reading the reviews of this book I felt like I would be disappointed in this book - after all, its average rating is 3.16 and I have a habit of not reading books unless their rating is 3.5 or above.

I saw this book sitting on my bookshelf month after mont
Want more than a superficial reflection.
Needed more of the "holy" less of the "fool"

I so loved The Madonnas Of Leningrad that I may be judging this too harshly. MOL was a multi faceted book (read my review : that came to life. TMW stays on the page, flat, uninspiring.

I don't mind dark, grim, bleak ... and this setting was all of those things. My problem was that I never felt empathy for the characters, I never felt I was there, I never felt I cared (I fi
The Mirrored World is the story of St. Xenia and it tells the story of this revered Russian saint through her cousin Dasha. The story begins when the two are girls and follows them as they grow up, find love, experience loss, lose each other and then find each other again.

It's an OK read. I'm pretty well versed in the political & historical events during this time in Russian history and it is accurate. But it felt like the book didn't really tell the story of Xenia. It seemed the focus was
Because I won this book I would like to thank Harper Collins and Goodreads for sending me this book. I was so exited when I found out I won. Winning stuff is always fun :)

The writing style of The Mirrored World took some getting used too. The book is written like a fairy tale. In the beginning of the book I found it hard to focus on the story because of the dreamy way of writing. Also in the first part of the book it's not really clear who the person is telling the story and where the story is g
At the center of Debra Dean’s The Mirrored World is the theme of transformation. The novel, a retelling of the story of St. Xenia of Petersburg, connects the saint’s story with that of the narrator, Xenia’s cousin Dasha.

As much as the reading experience enjoyable, I also found it a learning experience. Dean has a way of capturing an appropriate level of spirituality and moralistic tone without overstepping the bounds and going into sappiness or oversentimentality. By having Dasha relate her sto
The Mirrored World by Debra Dean is the resplendent and fascinating tale of St. Xenia, a holy fool in eighteenth-century Russia. Told by Xenia's beloved cousin, the story tells of Xenia's passionate love for her husband, then her visions of tragedy followed by turning away from the material world to serve the impoverished of St. Petersburg.

Debra Dean tells this historical tale with an eye for the details of Elizabeth's eccentric court and then the paranoia that plagued Catherine the Great. I rea
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I have a soft spot for saints. Novelists who tackle the life of a saint -- what they might have been really like -- automatically endear themselves to me, and I was drooling with anticipation over this book. Happily, Dean didn't disappoint, and this brisk little novel has the lush extravagance I wanted from a historical novel featuring royalty as well as the more mundane details of everyday life.

Beginning in the 1730s, the story is told by young Dasha, who is mesmerised by her older cousins, Nad
Douglas Dalrymple
This is Debra Dean’s second novel, and though it is in some ways less ambitious than her first (the NYT-best-selling Madonnas of Leningrad), I think it’s the better of the two. The storytelling is crisp, the pacing consistent, the characters well-drawn, the prose never flat and often very good.

My meager experience of contemporary fiction has shown me that most of it is truly awful. As a rule I avoid it. I make an exception for Ms Dean because she isn’t at all awful and because (full disclosure)
Saints are fascinating subjects; bringing in to question the lines between devotion and mania, as well as sanity and lunacy. In her latest novel, The Mirrored World, Debra Dean explores the life of the Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg, an 18th Century saint also known as the fool for Christ. Born to relative privileged and married for love, Xenia dreamed of a happy life with children. Shortly after the death of her infant daughter her beloved husband met with an accident and died. Xenia gave all ...more
Christina Dudley
The pages of this beautifully-written, evocative novel flew by. Dean fleshes out the life of St. Xenia, patron saint of St. Petersburg, seen through the loving but mystified eyes of fictional cousin Dasha. I must be pretty worldly because I admit I most enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book, BEFORE Xenia went saintly holy fool on everyone. After that I found her as opaque as Dasha does, and the book reads more like this summary of the real Xenia I found online: .

How many ways are lives mirrored in the world of Catherine the Great's royal court? Perhaps it's not only outward lives that are mirrored, but inward as well. Perhaps the mirror of life is a dream. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately at times), mirrors do distort the reality. Ann Hood's blurb on the back of the book jacket describes the novel well: "The Mirrored World explores the mysteries of love and grief and devotion. Against a vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century St. Petersburg and Catherin ...more
I often wonder what makes a book a slow starter - is it the book or is it me? Is it finding the footing for a character and a story, or is it me having to get into the rhythm of the writing?

These are the things I found myself pondering as I began this novel - a secular Historical Fiction about St. Xenia of Petersburg, a very beloved Orthodox Saint. For a lot of the novel, I felt that it was a bit hampered by the choice of the narrator not being Xenia herself, but a cousin. I think that the conce
The beginning of the book beautifully portrayed the society of St. Petersburg in the mid 18th century and I was initially captivated by the romantic deptiction of the ice palace and the grand balls. After the first 50 or 60 pages, though, the plot lost my interest a bit. Witnessing a woman descend into madness because of her grief isn’t exactly uplifting. Xenia’s tragic life is heartbreaking, but her transformation to a devout mystic is unsettling. The narrator Dasha wasn’t entirely engaging des ...more
Ryan G
Most of you already know that I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, with few exceptions, I normally can't connect with the approach the author chooses to take with the subject. So you may be surprised to see that I agreed to review The Mirrored World by Debra Dean. If I don't like historical fiction, why choose a historical fiction book to review. My friends, that's a good question. So let me try to explain it to you.

Since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by the men and women who have been
Renae (Respiring Thoughts)
The Mirrored World is a short book, and I can’t say that it provides a particularly deep insight into either its characters or its themes. However, in spite of this novel’s brevity, I found myself enchanted by the story Debra Dean told, enough so that I wouldn’t have minded another 200 pages. Of course, I think maybe the vague elegance of The Mirrored World wouldn’t have been possible with a more detailed text.

This novel reads like a memoir, written by a woman named Dasha, detailing her own life
St. Xenia was a holy woman, a fool for Christ, who gave away all her possessions after her husband died and wandered the streets of St. Petersburg for more than forty years. She is now a patron saint of that city. I picked up The Mirrored World hoping to learn more about this woman but, alas, it does not give much beyond what is on the inside cover flap. The blurb there says Xenia is revered as “a blessed healer to the downtrodden ... feared by the royal court and its new ruler, Catherine, who p ...more
Alexis Villery
The Mirrored World imagines the world and life of St. Xenia, a historical figure known for serving the impoverished in St. Petersburg, Russia during the eighteenth century and endeavors to explain how she became the historical figure that she is known for today. The tale is told by Xenia's cousin Dasha and is enriched by historical details (and gossip) about the royal family and the quirky antics of the court during this time period.

This is a sad interesting tale that I enjoyed quite a bit. It
3.5/5 - Above average but not great.

The Madonnas of Leningrad was one of those wonderful books that taught me something new about a favorite time period and also kept the pages turning, so I really was looking forward to reading The Mirrored World.

I thought it was pretty good, in the end, but I didn't love it. Initially, the book was rather lacking in a sense of time and place -- and kind of a weird story. Part of the reason I couldn't figure out the location was my refusal to read cover blurbs
Debra Dean's The Mirrored World attempts to shed light on the life of Xenia of St. Petersburg, an renowned eighteenth-century mystic and "fool for Christ," canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1988. Little is known of the particulars of Xenia's life, other than following the death of her husband, she supposedly gave all her wealth to the poor and took to the streets of St. Petersburg wearing her late husband's military uniform. Dean approaches Xenia's life through the eyes of Dasha, a fic ...more
Overall I enjoyed the book, it ended up being a interesting read and the overall story was well done. I don't know a lot about the time period, but I think the author gave enough of a glimpse for me to want to seek out more historical fiction during the time period. Writing was well done, I'll more than likely seek out more by the author at some point in time.

I did find it a little too short, and I think some plot and character development fell just a touch short because of it. There was some gr
I read this book in an afternoon, hoping to find something to read with my high school english classes... This is not that book. But it is lovely-- compact and linear, with a clear arch, more like a short story than a full-length novel.
The tone is meditative, the characters introspective, the setting as bleak as 18th century St. Petersburg. The characters face lower-nobility angst of lost fortunes, lost minds, unsuccessful debuts and disinheritence...
We are never given access to the most interes
Dasha and her cousin Xenia were raised together almost like sisters. Now, all grown up, Dasha recounts their life together.

Xenia was like any other child -- almost. She had an uncanny prescience, sometimes able to predict certain things simply based on her dreams. When she met and fell madly in love with Andrei, her life seemed complete. They longed for children and when they finally conceived it seemed as though Xenia would have everything she dreamed. Life had other plans. Tragedy struck and
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Orthodoxy: A novel about St Xenia of St Petersburg that I can recommend 6 19 Jan 26, 2014 08:09PM  
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Debra Dean’s bestselling novel THE MADONNAS OF LENINGRAD was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a #1 Booksense Pick, a Booklist Top Ten Novel, and an American Library Association Notable Book of the Year. It has been published in twenty languages. Her collection of short stories, CONFESSIONS OF A FALLING WOMAN, won the Paterson Fiction Prize and a Florida Book Award.

Her new novel, THE MIRRORED WORL
More about Debra Dean...
The Madonnas of Leningrad Confessions of a Falling Woman: And Other Stories

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“How may one describe enchantment? As he sang, his countenance softened, and without benefit of costume or any other artifice of the stage, the Gaspari I knew faded and was transfored into something eerily beautiful. A delicate hand, rising and turning like a vine, seemed to unfurl this otherworldy sound into the air. Though I could not translate the words, there was no need, for the sound went straight to my soul, transcending the poor and broken language we mortals must use. I slipped gratefully out of my body and floated on the current of music, feeling that all of us round the table were a single spirit, a single being. I was filled with such love. The voice soared, wave upon wave, until the last note, quivering with tenderness, put us ashore again too soon.” 1 likes
“Whatever we know as children, this is the world, eaten whole and without question.” 1 likes
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