Excellent historical novel which opens in 1941 Leningrad at the precipice of
German invasion is the story of Anna an artist and her and their survival in the siege Moving Terrific read for anyone interested in historical dramas of this time period or who just like a gripping beautifully written story of survival and love Story set immediately before and during the first year of the Siege of Leningrad it focuses around 5 characters a dissident writer Mikhail his nursery school teacher daughter Anna his son Kolya as his his nursery school teacher daughter Anna his son Kolya as his wife the strong willed Vera died in childbirth Anna effectively is Kolya s mother and Marina a reclusive and discredited artist friend of Mikhail who comes to live with them after the siege and who it becomes clear was a once lover of Mikhail and Andrei a Doctor who works on a volunteer force with Mikhail visits Anna to tell her he is wounded but OK and then gradually becomes her lover and eventually moves into their appartment Another two characters literally in a fable from the Napoleonic attack on Russia told by her father and figuratively throughout are hunger and the winterThe book is mainly in the present tense which seems to fit well the immediacy of the story and the day to day if not hour to hour nature of their existence and fight for survival Anna is normally the main character despite the book being written in the third person so the occasional sections shifting to another character in particular the passages switching to Pavlov the logistical planner for Leningrad s hopelessly inadeuate food supplies can jarSimilarly as the siege takes hold and food supplies dwindle and almost disappear the book and characters close in on themselves and their appartment and on simple survival and the need for sustenance and this fits the author s terse but poetic writing styleA haunting tale which I found incredibly engrossing at the time one of my very young children wasn t eating very well and I found it hard to not somehow think that this was a crucial matter of her health also I was tired and felt reluctant to succumb to sleep because it might be like surrendering to the cold and not waking up again as well as beautifully written The story is extremely readable easy to and best read in a few sittingsSome of the details are terrible such as the baby opposite who dies of malnutrition from its young mother s inadvertent ignorance and neglect the bodies left dead in houses given the cold there and the impossibility of burial The description of cold and hunger and its physical and psychological effects
the German invasion is the story of Anna an artist and her
with Andrei acting as an excuse to introduce scientific detail are shocking but compellingThere are great reference to Andrei acting as an excuse to introduce scientific detail are shocking but compellingThere are great reference to literature especially Pushkin the author describes the Baltic seasons beautifully and gives a good insight into Stalinist Russia Waiting for SpringHelen Dun s marvelous novel surely her best begins with Spring in 1941 And then just when it seemed as if summer would forget about Leningrad this year everything changed Ice broke loose from the compacted mass around the Strelka Seagulls preened on the floes as the current swept them under bridges and down the widening Neva to the sea It will end with Spring a year later but by that time a large part of the Leningrad population will have died of cold or malnutrition as the German armies hold the city in a relentless siegeDun begins gently almost lyrically in a small dacha outside the city Not that everyday life is easy Her protagonist 23 year old Anna Mikhailova Levin has had to abandon her studies as an artist to look after her baby brother Kolya when her mother died in childbirt. Called elegantly starkly beautiful by The New York Times Book Review The Siege is Helen Dun's masterpiece Her canvas is monumental the Nazis' 1941 winter siege on Leningrad that illed six hundred thousand but her focus is heartrendingly intimate One family the Levins. .
Helen Dunmore ´ 5 reviewNot enjoy this book As I read this book on my couch after dinner drinking a beer and enjoying the warm summer night I found
myself tensing against a monstrous cold that had become so physical that I couldn t unfeel it despitetensing against a monstrous cold that had become so physical that I couldn t unfeel it despite nowledge that it was only words on paperIn The Siege Dun weaves together the huge and small stories of the siege of Leningrad in a way that reminded me of The Grapes of Wrath and The Book Thief It s very effective the grand descriptions of the land and the cold create a mythical world and the straightforward lives of the Levin family make that world real and terrible It was sometimes hard to read especially while cradling my newborn baby but so humanely observant that I couldn t put it downDun s writing especially her verbs astonished me throughout I want to read everything she s written But first I m going to read City of Thieves at Roses s recommendation for what looks to be a very different angle on the same damn siege This turned out to be a deeply absorbing and fascinating story about the seige of Lenigrad It describes in detail the terrible trauma of living through such an ordeal when half the population of the city died from starvation and the cold and their bodies were buried in mass graves In The Siege we follow the day to day lives of a family living at the point of starvation and surviving on things such as wallpaper paste and tea made from water and a teaspoon of honey At one point they eat a guinea pig taken from the laboratory at the hospital A rare treat to have meat for dinnerOf course life does go on People still meet and fall in love babies are born and sometimes the government manages to provide a ration of bread The book is an absolute eye opener not just in describing the awful details of how people survived this real life tragedy but also in giving a history lesson on the politics of the day and the war which caused it Helen Dun writes beautifully and makes this a book well worth reading The high up ones start things but it s us who have to finish them off The bottom line of all warsI have always liked reading novels re The Fuehrer has decided to have Leningrad wiped from the face of the earth Such a harrowing read as
DUN GIVES US AN INSIGHT INTOgives us an insight into it was like to live through the first winter of the siege of Leningrad In another author s hands this might have been lush with romantic melodrama but Dun eeps it clean and cold allowing the details to speak for themselves Kolya s childish whining as he cannot understand why he can t have another spoonful of precious hoarded jam the uiet yet deep relationship between Anna and Andrei who fall in love in the most inauspicious of circumstances the visceral cold as temperatures drop and water freezes in rooms with no power the effect on human nature the frightening competition for almost non existent resources the moments of compassion and friendship the look and feel and smell of bodies slowly starving Through it all what emerges is the will and determination of some people to survive a paean to Leningrad and the human spirit First and foremost I d describe The Siege as a very claustrophobic novel It takes place in Stalingrad during the German assault but I rarely had a sense of a city in this book It often felt like the characters were living in virtual isolation in the midst of some dystopian wasteland It always felt the world was far removed When a character left the apartment I saw not city streets but a ind of anonymous rural landscape I was never uite convinced the author could see Stalingrad not once did she make me see it The novel s drama is almost entirely focused on th. Ly thin Their father a blacklisted writer who once advocated a robust life of the mind withers in spirit and body At such brutal times everything is tested And yet Dun's inspiring story shows that even then the triumph of the human heart is that love need not fall away. ,
H five years before Her
father a writer has been blacklisted by the Soviet Writers Union so Anna must worka writer has been blacklisted by the Soviet Writers Union so Anna must work a daycare nursery to support them suffering under a boss whose strict adherence to socialist doctrines does not disguise her dislike of children It is a period when nobody dare speak openly for fear of denunciation and arrest But Russia still has a pact with Germany and war seems far offBy the end of summer all has changed Germany invades Russia and Leningrad is marked for destruction The city s food warehouses are firebombed its supply lines are cut and strict food rationing is imposed The citizens are mobilized to dig ditches build defenses work in factories but slowly everything grinds to a halt everyone now has one business only survival Anna holes up in a tiny apartment with Kolya her father and two others from outside the family one is Marina Petrovna a blacklisted actress and her father s old friend the other Andrei is a young medical student and Anna s first love For love blooms against all odds there may be little romance in two fully dressed unwashed emaciated bodies huddling together for warmth but there is something
deeper responsibility and caring And the political climate changes also Words are regaining their meaningsresponsibility and caring And the political climate changes also Words are regaining their meanings years of masuerade Hunger means hunger terror means terror enemy means enemy It is not like trying to read mirror writing any Everything gets clearer day by day as siege and winter eat into their lives The coils of Soviet life are losing their strength There s only the present left and it has burned away both past and future Dun s ability to paint simultaneously a vast canvas and an intimate portrait has naturally been compared to Tolstoy But as the situation worsens many succumb to the inevitable but others find an impossible will to survive I though of John Steinbeck s Grapes of Wrath Dun does not uite reach his spiritual transcendence but she has the same deep belief in the human spirit Spring does come and the authorities find ways to get some food in and inhabitants out The siege will continue for eighteen months but its grip has been loosened The survivors have rediscovered their humanityThe others I have read in my personal order of preference are Zennor in Darkness A Spell of Winter and Talking to the Dead The novel revolves around five interwoven lives during the war when Leningrad was completely surrounded by the Germans Winter came and there was no food or coal it was a brutal winter and one half of the population of the city perishedThere are fantastic descriptions of what the city looked and felt like The heroism of the people who were described was incredible There is so much history to be learned for this book love determination heroism redemption survival it s all thereAnother great historical novel by Ms Dun After I read this book I remember doing a lot of research about this time in Leningrad it was a terrible time for those who lived thereall time favorite This book made such an impression on me that I still can think about it and feel as though I was there The 3 star rating reflects my reaction to this book rather than its uality I can appreciate that this is not a book to be enjoyed as such given its horrific subject matter but I really didn t enjoy the experience of reading it I found the narrative stilted and too episodic and I didn t feel particular empathy for any of the characters It was always going to be depressing but I found it turgidly so by halfway through and I am very grateful to have finished Having read other reviews I m definitely in the minority here I admire Helen Dun s writing but I simply did. Fights to stay alive in their small apartment held together by the unlikely courage and resourcefulness of twenty two year old Anna Though she dreams of an artist's life she must instead forage for food in the ever desperate city and watch her little brother grow cruel.