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The Siege Paperback – 16 Dec 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (16 Dec. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241952190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241952191
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A Tolstoyan epic of love and war; life and death...she writes beautifully (Sunday Telegraph)

Remarkable, affecting...there are few more interesting stories than this; and few writers who could have told it better (Rachel Cusk Daily 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)

Literary writing of the highest order set against a background of suffering so intimately reconstructed it is hard to believe that Dunmore was not there (Richard Overy Sunday Telegraph)

A remarkable parable of human survival against the odds (Mail on Sunday)

In this wise, humane and beautifully written novel she has written a masterpiece (Independent)

A searing historical novel. Dunmore vividly evokes the unbelievable cold, privations and violence as people struggle to survive...an extraordinary description of the horrors of the time (Sunday Express)

An important as well as a thrilling work of art (Independent on Sunday)

A moving and powerful novel in which Dunmore employs all her celebrated descriptive and narrative skills...beautiful (Daily Mail)

A harrowing, urgent narrative of cold, starvation and the battle to survive (Sunday Times)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an extraordinary book dealing with the stark horror of the siege of Leningrad in 1941. This isn't just a plain narrative of events that take place during the first year of the siege; we are taken into the starved, wandering minds of Anna and her family, as they are finding difficulty in working out when night becomes day, spending much of their time sleeping just to conserve energy. It is told in a matter of fact, unsentimental way of how Anna goes about the everyday business of feeding her 5 year old brother from anything that is available to eat - including the boiled skin of a leather manicure case - as well as taking care of her father, her lover and a family friend who are all living together in their small apartment. The Siege takes place during one of the harshest winters on record - something the Russians would find trouble dealing with even if they were fit, healthy and well fed. They will burn books and furniture to stay warm and eke out an existence on nothing more than a ration of 125 grams of bread a day. Many of the population can't even summon the energy to stand in the queue for this meagre ration and often die there and then in the streets. However, the book is not without hope as gradually supplies do manage to get through and the Leningraders (what's left of them) start to feel alive again, even though the Siege was to last for another few years. This book highlights the extraordinary plight of a city coping against all odds. A brilliant book.
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Format: Hardcover
This book takes a relatively short period of the siege of Leningrad and carefully documents its effects on the lives of a Russian family. The descriptions of the city and its surrounding countryside are wonderfully evocative, capturing both the beauty pre-war and the terrible destruction that first the Germans, and then the winter and starvation, bring to Leningrad. If I have to make a criticism it would be that the snapshot of the siege ends after it is only a third completed, although it is implied that the worst is over. The next 2 years were also very, very hard and expensive in terms of lives lost. But this remains a study of humanity in the midst of brutality.
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Format: Hardcover
The reader surfaces from this book with a sense of amazement coupled with guilt. The world around us is blanketed with a cornucopia of food, warmth, comforts of every kind. Yet only a few decades past millions suffered a living death in Leningrad and Dunmore is able to place us at the very centre of the besieged city - indeed, in a stark and freezing apartment with a small cast of noble characters. Anna and her family are drawn with a poetic intensity that mirrors the great soul and endurance of the Russian people. Of course, there are crooks and cowards in this snowy mausoleum of a place where the world seems to teeter on the edge of a void but crowning all is a sense of the heroic, the eternal power of love, the unstoppable continuity of nature and humanity's place in it.
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By A Customer on 22 Jun. 2001
Format: Hardcover
A harrowing, beautifully written account of the siege of Leningrad. The book is well reasearched and very interesting, but it is minutiae of life -literally staying alive - which Helen Dunmore describes so well. The book concentrates mainly on one family and how they cope during this ordeal - it shows the ingenuity of people pushed to the limit of endurance. It is a moving and humane book which has kindled my interest in this period of Russian history.
I have long been a fan of Helen Dunmore's work - but in my opinion this novel is the best thing she has written - a brilliant return to the form of "Burning Bright" and "A spell of Winter".
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Format: Hardcover
The Siege is by far the best novel Helen Dunmore has written, and establishes her as an important writer. It uses her skill at describing women's domestic and emotional lives but widens it in placing her characters in the 1941 Siege of Leningrad. Anna,an aspiring artist has to look after her father (a writer who can't get published because his work isn't upbeat enough for the Party) and little brother. When we first see her she's digging up onions at the family dacha, and those she can't dig up she destroys - a foretaste of the scroched earth policy that made the Russians impossible to defeat. Pretty soon, as winters and the Nazis close in, all the pets are eaten and there are rumours of cannibalism. Anna's family survive, not just physically but morally although at a terrible price. One of the things that keeps them going is the memory of Russian literature, even when they have to burn their books to keep warm. Although Anna's father and her lover are insubstantial characters, the depiction of the women more than compensates. This is a marvellous, gripping novel about suffering and love, which fuses the world of women's fiction with that of Tolstoy.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading Zennor in Darkness by this author, I was hooked! So I purchased a couple more by her, including this one 'The Siege' - it had me gripped from the start, beautifully written, she paints pictures with words - it was a book I could not put down, reading it every chance I got - in the bath, in bed, took it to work . . . you get the idea. I so wanted to know what would happen to the characters in the book . . . . and ordered the sequel as soon as I finished it (it took me less than a week to read!). I have since read the sequel, and hope she makes it into a series with another volume! Recommended book - recommended author.
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