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The Mirrored World

3.19  ·  Rating Details ·  986 Ratings  ·  223 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
Michael Lujan
Jan 22, 2014 Michael Lujan rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
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
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
Oct 28, 2012 Franky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual
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
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
Jul 11, 2012 Denise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
It is so unusual to have an Orthodox Saint featured as the heroin of a novel that I requested right away a copy of The Mirrored World when I realized what it was about – actually, the beautiful cover does point to Orthodoxy. I’m very grateful to the author Debra Dean and to HarperCollins who sent me the book right away: I got it the following day!!

I had not read Debra Dean’s previous books. I like very much her writing, very fluid and full of lively details. From very little, she managed to crea
Jan 31, 2013 Riya rated it really liked it  ·  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
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)
Sep 07, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Liesje Leest
Sep 12, 2012 Liesje Leest rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 14, 2012 Cindi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
Sep 14, 2012 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Kilian Metcalf
I loved her debut novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad, that I gave away several copies to friends. I enjoyed her short story collection, Confessions of a Falling Woman, too. Yet somehow this book just didn't grab me the way the others did.

I love her voice and her writing style. I think it is the setting that doesn't speak to me. 18th-century Russia is depressing. The void between the rich and the poor is so huge it is unbridgeable. The relationship between the two sisters and their marriages are ha
Christina Dudley
Sep 30, 2012 Christina Dudley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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: .

Aug 07, 2014 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, vine, fiction
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
Jul 23, 2012 Mimi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
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
Sep 09, 2014 Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Peggy Huey
This book presents an intriguing look at St. Petersburg, Russia, during the time before Catherine the Great took the throne. It follows the adventures of Xenia, the daughter of a lower nobility family, as she experiences the highs and lows of the age, including a brief marriage to an Italian eunuch who is a favored performer at the opera.
Nov 16, 2016 Aydah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meh. Mom fiction. I'm not a mom though. I'm just glad I finished reading it. What captivated me was the fine writing of Debra Dean's prose. The narrator Dasha was dull AF! Geez. I had to finish reading this for closure, ya know?

*Spoilers* The ending was top lame. I was like...dude wut?
Nov 21, 2016 Jemathomp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting characters set in a historic time in Russia. The influence of the court on daily life and family relationships set the tone of the story of St. Xenia.
Marcus Watkins
Not quite what I expected when I started, but interesting novel about "holy fools" in 18th century Russia.
brief easy interesting story.
Apr 10, 2013 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is it like to see someone you know become a saint--a holy fool for Christ? How does that transformation influence you? Debra Dean tells that story in her new historical novel, The Mirrored World. According to the publisher:

The bestselling author of The Madonnas of Leningrad returns with a breathtaking novel of love, madness, and devotion set against the extravagant royal court of eighteenth-century St. Petersburg.

Born to a Russian family of lower nobility, Xenia, an eccentric dreamer who c
Kayla Beck
The main focus of my history degree and religious studies has been focused on Western Europe and the Crusades, so I have never heard of Xenia of St. Petersburg prior to reading The Mirrored World . The story of her life is told by her cousin, Dashenka. It begins with the fire of 1736 in St. Petersburg, when Xenia, her mother, and sister Nadya move in with Dashenka's family, and ends around the turn of the century. The book takes the reader through Xenia's childhood, marriage, and finally her ye ...more
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Orthodoxy: A novel about St Xenia of St Petersburg that I can recommend 6 25 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...

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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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