Jenny GB's Reviews > The Mirrored World

The Mirrored World by Debra Dean
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's review
Jun 28, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: giveaway
Read in August, 2012

I received a copy of this novel through Goodreads First Reads.

It's hard for me to know what to rate this novel because it is so unlike anything I've read before. I did like it and I feel deeply touched by it although it is a very sad and strange book.

The book is about Xenia who is revered as a saint in Russia, but apparently not much is known about her except that she lived a fairly privileged early life. She was married and apparently deeply affected by her husband's death she decided to give away all her possessions and became a "holy fool" on the streets of St. Petersburg. This novel fleshes out these bare facts and imagines what Xenia's life might have been like through the eyes of her cousin Dasha.

I have never read anything by Debra Dean, but this novel was beautifully written and had a lyrical, poetic quality to it. She really captures an otherworldly feeling to this novel and although you know this person existed you can't believe that Xenia was real. As a historical fiction novel, the historical part is very light and only touches on things as they directly impact the lives of Xenia and Dasha. The main focus is on both girls' sorrows and relationships. Both women have husbands and both women suffer great losses. Throughout the novel Dean does a great job of weaving hints about Xenia's sort of strangeness even in childhood that makes her actions more believable.

More than anything this novel makes me so sad. I find the womens' love stories and mourning so beautiful and so sad. It makes me want to go spend time with my husband immediately. That more than anything in the book seems quite realistic and easy to relate to.

I struggled a lot more with the mystical saint aspect of it. I'm not very familiar with the concept of a "holy fool" and very little of Xenia's thoughts and actions are explained. There's a few stories here and there that mainly point to her having some sort of precognition of events. For me the fact that it wasn't explained more fully was a shortcoming of the book, but I understand that it was likely intentional to help give the book more of a supernatural or mysterious feel to it. I also was disappointed that there was not a conclusion to Dasha's story because the ending leaves her at a bit of a cliffhanger on what decision she is going to make next.

I definitely recommend this novel if this setting or situation interests you, but be forewarned that it could have a really strong emotional impact.

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