In short, the book is about a young woman who was a docent at the State Hermitage Museum in Leningrad during the 900-day siege that began in 1941. Now elderly and living in the United States, she has Alzheimer's and the story goes from present day to the past and her memories of the paintings in the museum.
I was fascinated. The descriptions of the halls and paintings were so real it was as though I was walking through the museum all over again. But I did learn something that had not been told to us when we were in the museum on our trip. It seems our guide forgot to mention that many of the paintings were sold off by Stalin in 1930-31 to finance the Soviet government. An elderly docent at the museum tells our young woman about the paintings and describes them in great detail to her, telling her to build a 'memory palace'.
Since I knew that Faberge eggs had been sold, I guess I should have realized they might have sold paintings too. With further research I learned that Andrew Mellon bought several paintings to establish the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. I am sure I have seen these paintings and never realized how they came to be there.
I went through my photos from the Hermitage and Winter Palace. I do have some photos of paintings though it is difficult with lighting and so many people around to get a good shot. Here are a few for your enjoyment.