THE MIRRORED WORLD by Debra Dean
Publisher Harper Collins, August 28, 2012
The bestselling author of the critically acclaimed The Madonnas of Leningrad, returns with a breathtaking historical novel, set against the unparalleled extravagance and artifice of the royal court in eighteenth century St. Petersburg-a world of ice palaces, glittering opera, and lavish balls-that imaginatively reconstructs the life of one of Russia’s most revered and mysterious holy figures, St. Xenia.
Born to a Russian family of lower nobility, Xenia is a passionate and tender dreamer who cares little for social conventions. A free spirit, she unexpectedly falls in love with the dashing Andrei, a handsome soldier with the Imperial choir. Though husband and wife are devoted to each other, their perfect happiness is overshadowed by the petty demands of life at the royal court, and by Xenia’s growing obsession to have a child—a desperate need that is at last fulfilled with the birth of a daughter.
Yet Xenia is far from content. Fearful for her family, she is certain that tragedy will strike—a terrible prediction that comes true. Shattered, the sensitive twenty-six-year-old woman withdraws into grief, undergoing a profound transformation that radically alters the course of her life. Turning away from family and friends, she begins giving away all of her money and possessions to the poor. Then, one day, she mysteriously vanishes.
Years later, dressed in the tatters of her husband’s military uniform and answering only to his name, Xenia is discovered tending the paupers of St. Petersburg’s slums. Revered as a soothsayer and blessed healer to the downtrodden, she is feared by the royal court and it’s new empress, Catherine, who see her deeds as a rebuke to their lavish excesses.
An evocative, elegantly written tale of love, madness, and devotion, The Mirrored World is a moving novel of a remarkable woman and her intriguing and inspiring legacy.
“With evocative, rich prose and deep emotional resonance, Debra Dean delivers a compelling and captivating story that touches the soul. Truly a wonderful read.”
— Garth Stein, bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
“Love affairs, rivalries, intrigues, prophecy, crossdressing, madness, sorrow, poverty–The Mirrored World is a litany of both the homely and the miraculous. Intimate and richly appointed, Debra Dean’s Imperial St. Petersburg is as sumptuous and enchanted as the Winter Palace.”
— Stewart O’Nan, author of The Odds: A Love Story
“THE MIRRORED WORLD explores the mysteries of love and grief and devotion. Against a vivid backdrop of eighteenth century St. Petersburg and Catherine the Great’s royal court, the woman who would become St. Xenia is brought fully to life. Is there a more imaginative, elegant storyteller than Debra Dean?”
— Ann Hood, author of The Red Thread and The Knitting Circle