St. Petersburg, 1736. Dasha and Xenia are cousins and devoted friends growing up in the shadow of royal society. On the night they make their debut at court, Xenia falls madly in love with a charismatic singer in the empress's imperial choir. They marry and settle into a contented family life.
But on a snowy winter night, tragedy shatters their dreams, plunging Xenia into an abyss of grief. Pulling away from everyone, including her dear friend, she begins giving away her possessions to the poor. Then one day she disappears...until eight years later, when Dasha hears rumors of a soothsayer and healer in St. Petersburg's slums, dressed in a ragged military uniform, who answers only to her husband's name.
Told in Dasha's compelling voice, The Mirrored World vividly captures a darkly glittering world of imperious empresses, ice palaces, holy fools, and Italian castrati--a world of unparalleled extravagance for the few and desperate squalor for the multitudes. What causes one privileged young woman to cross that divide, to give up all her possessions and become one of the homeless people whom she has served? Is it devotion or delusion? The novel illuminates the blessings of friendship, the limits of reason, and the costs of loving deeply.
Praise for The Mirrored World…
“In her excellent second novel, THE MIRRORED WORLD, Debra Dean has composed a resonant and compelling tale. . . . Dean’s writing is superb; she uses imagery natural to the story and an earlier time.”
“For those familiar with the story of St. Xenia, this is a gratifying take on a compelling woman. For others, Dean’s vivid prose and deft pacing make for a quick and entertaining read.”
“Love affairs, rivalries, intrigues, prophecy, cross-dressing, 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, bestselling author of Last Night at the Lobster
“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, bestselling author of The Knitting Circle
“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
“Transporting readers to St. Petersburg during the reign of Catherine the Great, Dean brilliantly reconstructs and reimagines the life of St. Xenia, one of Russia’s most revered and mysterious holy figures, in a richly told and thought-provoking work of historical fiction.”
“Dean’s novel grows more profound and affecting with every page.”
“In Debra Dean’s skilled hands, history comes alive. . . . Though the world she creates is harsh and cold at times, it is the warmth at its center— the power of love — that stays with you in the end.”