One of the best historical novels ever Feb 5, 2008
I've always been interested in Russia, especially the Russian peoples' experiences in WW2. I saw The Siege listed along with several other titles as being part of a veritable British New Wave of quality historical novels about WW1 and WW2.
I bought The Siege and it was quite a read. It's one thing to read a dry historical treatise about the 900-day Siege of Leningrad - the longest siege against any major world city in modern history. It's quite another to experience it through the day-to-day fact-based experiences of families stuck in a city that was the subject of a military tug-of-war between the world's two greatest military powers for nearly three years. We should be thankful that most of us never have had to face what the residents of Leningrad faced in the winter of 1941. I can't even visualize any harder living than that. I'll never forget this book as long as I live.
I also tell people that Pavolov, the food czar flown in by the Politburo in Moscow to try to save the city through rationing and more efficient food distribution, must have had the hardest job in the world in modern times. He was responsible for feeding 3 million people in a city that was virtually surrounded, yet if he failed, a bullet awaited him.
The Siege is not an easy read, but I think that it also shows how families can rally, how love can help you stay alive in times of despair, and how there's a lot of truth to the saying, "if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger." The Leningrad Siege is etched so deep in Russian memory that to this day in Russian obituaries if a person who survived the Siege or fought in the Red Army to lift to siege. It's even noted in biographies is newspapers if the person had parents or grandparents who survived the siege or fought to save the city. In fact, anyone who resided there during those 900 days or fought in defense of the city or to liberate it received a special medal that's highly prized to this day.
I recommend this book to anyone who's interested in the Russian Front fighting in WW2 and to anyone who wants to read an incredible story of how people survive in the worst of times.