Helen Dunmore follows the lives of four ordinary people, united by love, trying to survive the siege of Leningrad in her powerful historical novel "The Siege". Leningrad, September 1941. Hitler orders the German forces to surround the city at the start of the most dangerous, desperate winter in its history. For two pairs of lovers - Anna and ...
Helen Dunmore follows the lives of four ordinary people, united by love, trying to survive the siege of Leningrad in her powerful historical novel "The Siege". Leningrad, September 1941. Hitler orders the German forces to surround the city at the start of the most dangerous, desperate winter in its history. For two pairs of lovers - Anna and Andrei, Anna's novelist father and banned actress Marina - the siege becomes a battle for survival. They will soon discover what it is like to be so hungry you boil shoe leather to make soup, so cold you burn furniture and books. But this is not just a struggle to exist, it is also a fight to keep the spark of hope alive..."The Siege" is a brilliantly imagined novel of war and the wounds it inflicts on ordinary people's lives, and a profoundly moving celebration of love, life and survival. "Remarkable, affecting ...there are few more interesting stories than this; and few writers who could have told it better". (Rachel Cusk, "Daily Telegraph"). "Literary writing of the highest order set against a background if suffering so intimately reconstructed it is hard to believe that Dunmore was not there". (Richard Overy, "Sunday Telegraph"). "Utterly convincing. A deeply moving account of two love stories in terrible circumstances. The story of their struggle to survive appears simple, as all great literature should ...a world-class novel". (Antony Beevor, "The Times"). Novelist and poet Helen Dunmore has achieved great critical acclaim since publishing her first adult novel, the McKitterick Prize winning, "Zennor in Darkness". Her novels, "Counting the Stars", "Your Blue-Eyed Boy", "With Your Crooked Heart", "Burning Bright", "House of Orphans", "Mourning Ruby", "A Spell of Winter", and "Talking to the Dead", and her collection of short stories "Love of Fat Men" are all published by Penguin. This edition includes the first chapter of "Betrayal", the sequel to "The Siege".
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This book was one of the best books i have ever read. The story was historically accurate and also very believable as a novel. I couldn't put it down.
Feb 5, 2008
One of the best historical novels ever
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.
Publishers Weekly, 2001-10-22 In a novel whose every observation is so sharp the words almost hurt, Dunmore (Talking to the Dead) takes a giant step away from her praised domestic psychological dramas set in England. This urgent narrative brings shocking news, although the events Dunmore chronicles took place six decades ago, and mirror ancient, universal struggles. It's 1941; Leningrad is under siege by the German army and the relentless winter. Thousands will starve or freeze before the spring, but Dunmore shuns the moral numbness of numbers. She compels us to live inside the skin of Anna Levin, a 23-year-old artist and nursery-schoolteacher. In chaste yet shimmering prose, Dunmore conveys the sourness of Anna's hunger, her anguish over whether to eat an onion immediately or save it to sprout so that her five-year-old brother, Kolya, may have the precious vitamins in the shoots. Anna's mother died when Kolya was born, and Anna must also feed her ailing father, the writer Mikhail, who has fallen out of favor with the government. As winter closes in, his one-time mistress, the faded, gallant actress, Marina, joins their household, bringing her precious hoard of cloudberry jam. Andrei, a physician who loves Anna, stumbles home from brutal days at the hospital to help huddle Kolya against the interminable icy nights. Lauded by the British critics last year, the novel is a signal achievement, and Anna is a true heroine for our times - tender in love, passionate in art, unyielding in her will to survive. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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