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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart wrenching!
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...
Published on 13 April 2005 by vicky allen

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dismal
I agree with both 1star and 5star reviewers so have gone middle of the road. This is a really good and well written story, but as others have said it is hard to get any empathy with any of the characters so I found I didn't care enough even though they were living through such harrowing times. Good story but very dull writing.
Published 22 months ago by gillynm


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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart wrenching!, 13 April 2005
This review is from: The Siege (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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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, unsensationalist study of the brutality of war, 7 Dec 2001
By 
Amazon Customer (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Siege (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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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book - Read it!, 14 Oct 2003
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This review is from: The Siege (Paperback)
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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Immerse yourself in a real and terrifying event, 1 Feb 2002
By 
Carolyn "rolymoore" (Flogny-La-Chapelle, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Siege (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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book, 22 Jun 2001
This review is from: The Siege (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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quantum leap forward for a fine writer, 2 July 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Siege (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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Leningrad siege retold, 14 April 2010
By 
lilysmum "lilysmum65" (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Siege (Paperback)
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A vivid portayal of a horrific chapter in history, 11 Oct 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Siege (Paperback)
While it's impossible to imagine the suffering that the inhabitants of St Petersburg must have gone through during the siege, this book goes some way to bringing the experience to life. As you read about the depths of winter, you'll find yourself shivering even if reading it on the beach.
The book also succeeds in getting across the extreme paranoia of a state where the secret police are always watching. This even at a time when people are starving to the extent that they are trying to extract wallpaper paste off their walls in the hope that it might provide some nutrition.
Overall an enjoyable read, if disturbing at times. My first Helen Dunmore, and certainly not my last.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cold, bleak and compelling, 29 Nov 2010
By 
Suzie (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Siege (Paperback)
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written book about human love and cruelty, 17 May 2006
By 
Moe (Oxfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Siege (Paperback)
This book has probably the most evocative descriptions of extreme cold and starvation that I've ever read. It was almost uncomfortable at times to imagine the extreme privations, as well as phenomenal courage, of the central characters, so clearly was it described. The contrasts between the early autumn days full of hope and warmth are pitted against the desperate conditions in only two months time. She describes so beautifully the obsessive thoughts Anna had about food, simple food like soup with dumplings, and how appetising and so out of reach they were to her and to the little brother she sacrificed so much to save. I can only imagine that is how people would feel when they are struggling just to exist. It is also an essay on man's cruelty to man, beginning with the stark German orders to annihilate the city and everyone in it and continuing with the descent to utterly selfish and brutish behaviour by many when faced with imminent death. I was moved to find a guidebook on St. Petersburg to see where the cemetery with the mass graves is located. The city is such a tourist destination nowadays, and of course one can only be thankful for the human spirit that continues in the face of such desperate cruelty, but the contrast with the modern glitter of the restored palaces and museums is stark. This is a fine and brave book and very well written. I recommend it.
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The Siege
The Siege by Helen Dunmore (Hardcover - 7 Jun 2001)
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