The Siege

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9780141000732: The Siege

Leningrad, September 1941. German tanks surround the city, imprisoning those who live there. The besieged people of Leningrad face shells, starvation, and the Russian winter. Interweaving two love affairs in two generations, THE SIEGE draws us deep into the Levin's family struggle to stay alive during this terrible winter. It is a story about war and the wounds it inflicts on people's lives. It is also a lyrical and deeply moving celebration of love, life and survival.

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Review:

The final words of Helen Dunmore's The Siege--"No, I shall not wholly die..."(Alexander Pushkin)--respond to the stark threat with which the novel begins: "Re: The future of Leningrad ... The Führer has decided to have Leningrad wiped from the face of the earth". In this powerful work of fiction, Dunmore writes through her fascination with one of the most remarkable, and painful, episodes in Russian history: the siege of Leningrad through the winter of 1941 during which untold thousands perished of cold and starvation.

The Siege is a type of memorial, a literary document to an experience in which, as Dunmore writes, "being dead is normal". People die in the streets, in their beds; whole families are frozen, "bodies piled up by the Karpovka canal, or outside the cemeteries". What does it take to survive? Dunmore explores that question through the powerful characters--Anna Levin, Kolya (her child-brother) and Andrei (her lover)--who people this novel, conjuring the contest with death that becomes the daily existence of the Leningraders, their belief in a world beyond the siege. The Siege is itself part of that world, stricken by memory and the question of what it means for a novel (and a novelist) to take on the "flesh of all those other Leningraders who died of hunger in silent, frigid rooms". This is part of the wager, and accomplishment, of Dunmore's extraordinary book and confirmation of the extraordinary skill and sensitivity, of her writing. --Vicky Lebeau

Review:

"'[She is] one of this country's most accomplished literary talents' Daily Telegraph 'Beautifully fulfils the highest function of a storyteller - to make you wonder what will happen next... electrifying' Sunday Times"

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