The 900 Days
by David S on April 23, 2012This book was first published in 1969 at a time when the Eastern Front in World War 2 got very little coverage in the UK. I first read it in about 1975 and it had a great impact on me. The scale and duration of the suffering and the number of deaths involved in the Siege of Leningrad are truly horrifying.
This book gives a very good account of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Its core, for me, is the descriptions of the hardships experienced by both the civilian and the military populations of Leningrad. It is a book everyone should read, I think.
Inevitably, I suppose, it is now showing its age a bit. There was a brief, now largely ended, opening up of Soviet archives after Glasnost and the fall of the Iron Curtain. More recent accounts of this siege, like Michael Jones' Siege of Leningrad, have had access to more documents and present a clearer account of some of the military incompetence of the Red Army in the first months of the war. They also give a clearer picture of the corruption and special privileges available to the select few in senior Communist Party positions throughout the siege.
But for the detail of life for the civilian population of Leningrad, particularly during the starvation winter of 1941-2, when probably well over a million people died of starvation, Salisbury's account is very hard to beat.
This is a very harrowing book but one that I thoroughly recommend. No-one who reads it will ever forget it, I believe. I have given it 4 stars rather than 5 because of the availability of later information and, occasionally, some repetitiveness in the text. But this wasn't an easy decision and when I first read it, I would certainly have classed it as excellent. It is a true classic, I believe.
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