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The Siege Paperback – 30 May 2002

42 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (30 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141000732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141000732
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Helen Dunmore has published six novels with Viking and Penguin: ZENNOR IN DARKNESS, which won the McKitterick Prize; BURNING BRIGHT; A SPELL OF WINTER, which won the Orange Prize; TALKING TO DEAD; YOUR BLUE-EYED BOY; and WITH YOUR HEART CROOKED HEART. She is also a poet, children's novelist and short-story writer; her two collections of short stories, LOVE OF FAT MEN and ICE CREAM, are also published by Viking and Penguin. She lives in Bristol.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By vicky allen on 13 April 2005
Format: Paperback
What a beautifully written book this is. It was a treat from start to finish. Although the subject matter is necessarily bleak, the triumph over adversity scenario has never been so terrifyingly real.
Anna, a young woman, her 5 year old brother and her father are trying to survive the Seige of Leningrad in temperatures most of us cannot even imagine, and are unlikely to experience. The Germans are trying to starve the city to death and are succeeding. There is no food. Every step and every expenditure of energy has to be carefully thought out. Every nerve and every fibre of Anna's being are programmed to survive against all odds. Her will to live and keep her brother alive is so strong. The writing makes you feel as if you are there in the apartment with them, so much so that I wept when they found a jar of jam that had been hidden!
This book makes you think about human nature to survive against all odds. A very emotional read, which gave me an insight to a part of WW2 that I hadn't read much about.
Brilliant.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Hellymart on 14 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful, unput-downable book - a love story in many senses but, ultimately it's the story of the city of Leningrad in the grip of winter and of starvation - it's a story of survival. Some of the other reviewers have complained that Dunmore doesn't go deep enough into the characters, that they are not fully developed, but I think that is intentional. When every day is a struggle just to live, there is no energy left for emotions and I think the author's sometimes 'matter of fact' prose reflects that very well. (And it still made me cry!!)
I was so absorbed by this book that I felt guilty for eating while I was reading it and when I left the house one night I fully expected there to be snow on the streets...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Suzie on 29 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Both The Siege and its sequel The Betrayal can stand alone but if you're intending to read both, it's probably better to read them in the correct order. Having read The Betrayal first I knew who would survive and who would perish, but for me this didn't spoil The Siege.

The story centres round Anna, a nursery teacher in her early twenties. She has looked after her young brother Kolya since their mother died in childbirth and shares an apartment in Leningrad with their father, a writer whose offerings are out of favour with the authorities. Andrei is a young doctor, trying to help the wounded as the German army advances. Among those he helps is Anna's father.

The setting is Leningrad in 1941, and when the German army surrounds the city, effectively isolating it from the rest of the country and cutting off all supplies, Anna carries on her bicycle what produce she can from the family dacha and the struggle for survival begins. The Russian winter is long and harsh, and Helen Dunmore excels at creating a sense of winter. This is even more apparent in The Siege than it was in A Spell of Winter, the first book I read by this author.

You can feel the cold and hunger as the nights lengthen and the snow deepens. As I tucked into my bowl of porridge this morning, I tried to imagine how anyone could survive on just two slices of bread a day, all that the rations allowed. Imagine struggling through the snow in temperatures of -20 degrees to queue for bread, your ration book securely hidden so no one steals it, without even knowing whether there will be any bread today.

I had put off reading this book as I feared it would be gloomy and depressing but, despite the hardship and the millions dying of starvation and cold, it ends with a ray of hope in the brief Leningrad summer. I'm so pleased I read it, and would thoroughly recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By lilysmum VINE VOICE on 14 April 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was recommended this book when I reviewed the book "City of Thieves", by David Benioff, which is also about the Leningrad Siege, but the difference between the two books is that one is narrated by a man and in this one the main character is a woman. The different perspectives on the same harsh winter where possibly a million people starved to death are quite striking if you read the two novels one after the other, as I did. It would be hard to say which I preferred. This novel tells the story from Anna's point of view. She struggles to survive the winter in St Petersburg, living in a small apartment where ice forms inside the windows and on hot drinks. The small family end up burning books and stewing a leather manicure case to survive. Dunmore captures the period perfectly and for days afterwards I found myself contemplating the contents of my food cupboards, wondering how long I could eke them out and feed my family in a siege situation. An excellent read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Brain on 22 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
This is the first novel I have read by Helen Dunmore and it will not be the last. She creates a bleak tale of Anna - a motherless 20 year old, an infant brother whom she is left to care for, her partner Andrei, her dying writer father and his long term lover - through the dreadful days of the Siege of Leningrad. Caught between the all-seeing, all-knowing regime of Stalinist Russia and the evil, all-destructive megalomania of the advancing German war-machine, the 'family' eke out an existence in a bitterly cold winter of near despair. Unlike other reviewers, I felt that Helen Dunmore exactly captured the overwhelmingly desolate atmosphere of a city and its people on their knees. Some of the text was repetitive, but this mirrored the unrelentless repetitive misery of day to day existence. I felt the imagery which Dunmore uses to reflect the thoughts, feelings and imaginations of her characters, was masterful. If I were to be critical, I would have to say that I was frustrated that the storyline was somewhat pedestrian and relatively little time was spent developing the complex relationships between the principal characters, but given the context, perhaps that was deliberate - it serving only to illustrate further, the all encompassing numbness that such desolation brings to the human spirit. But at least, a small watery sun shone through the final pages. Thank you Helen for allowing us to glimpse the possibility of just a little hope.
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