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Living through the Siege of Leningrad
on 11 March 2011
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.