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The Siege: A Novel by Helen Dunmore
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The Siege: A Novel (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Helen Dunmore

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7434112,532 (3.89)1 / 479
Member:chocolatedog
Title:The Siege: A Novel
Authors:Helen Dunmore
Info:Grove Press (2002), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, wwii, leningrad, siege, russia, read in 2012

Work details

The Siege by Helen Dunmore (2001)

  1. 30
    The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (gennyt)
    gennyt: Both are stories of cities under siege, and the struggles of ordinary people for survival in dangerous and extreme conditions.
  2. 20
    The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean (Imprinted)
  3. 00
    The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes (charl08)
    charl08: Linked by the experience of 'the terror'.
  4. 00
    Through the Burning Steppe: A Wartime Memoir by Elena Kozhina (Imprinted)
  5. 00
    The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad by Harrison E. Salisbury (Imprinted)
  6. 00
    The Life of an Unknown Man by Andreï Makine (GoST)
    GoST: Another historical novel about starvation and survival during the Siege of Leningrad.
  7. 00
    The Conductor by Sarah Quigley (avatiakh)
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English (39)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (41)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
Helen Dunmore is a stunning writer and this story was haunting. I will read more of this author's writing. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
Helen Dunmore is a stunning writer and this story was haunting. I will read more of this author's writing. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
I just realised I've read two Orange Prize nominated books in a row. Although the last one actually won it, I prefer this shortlisted one. But don't wildly love this either. It's sort of 'nice'. Which is an alarming thing to be saying of a book that writes of starvation and savagery during the Siege of Leningrad. But it writes about it in such a civilised way. There's bucket loads of descriptive prose, but for such a potentially gripping subject, I felt completely ungripped. The characters never felt real, and I remained unmoved. Not a book that moves in the same way as my brain apparently! ( )
  evilmoose | Dec 13, 2015 |
In some ways Dunmore’s extended prose is appropriate for a book about the drawn-out siege of Leningrad but personally I found it all overwrought in style. As well as going into what seems to me to be trivial detail at times, she also overloads her sentences. The following, for example, describes a childhood recollection of Andrei when he’d go camping with his mother: ‘When he lay on his back, he could feel the earth moving under him as the wind blew faint clouds over the clean blue face of the sky’.

I think this would, perhaps, appeal much more to female readers than males because it often has that sort of fanciful writing. Early on, when Anna visits Marina in her dacha, Dunmore describes her entering the property: ‘The creak of the gate flushes out a pair of woodpigeons from the birch-scrub. The birds go up, clattering their wings, and then settle on a branch way above Anna’s head. Prr-coo, they say, prr-coo, as they smooth away the noise she has made’.

What I think I find least convincing in this book is the characterisation while the relationships between the characters are anodyne and undeveloped. Andrei is no more than a Siberian-loving and Anna-loving hard-working doctor and the big mystery built up by Dunmore about the mystery of why Vera had disliked Marina is finally exposed as the one long guessed by he reader – an extra-marital affair, one explained in three different versions by Marina, each as insipid as the other – they take the reader nowhere.

Dunmore, then, has tackled what was undoubtedly an appalling event in Russian history but she has managed to make it seem all too pedestrian. ( )
  evening | Jun 23, 2015 |
This was a heavy novel. It was full of beautiful writing, and there were glimpses of hope, but I don't think categorizing it as anything but bleak would be an honest assessment. The siege of Leningrad was a horrifying situation, and Dunmore doesn't try to glamorize or gloss over the plight of the Russians struggling to stay alive. As the book progresses, and their hold on life becomes more tenuous, the novel itself seems to slow down - to become less grounded in real events and more dreamlike. Anna's struggle to trek just a few blocks in the snow takes pages, mirroring for the reader how exhausting and terrifying it would feel to her. I sense this book could be a tough sell for some readers, but I was really drawn to its intensity.

Like the best historical fiction, it served to make me more interested in reading accounts of the time in which it took place. I don't know that I've ever read fiction (or nonfiction) set during this particular part of WWII, and it made me definitely interested to find more books about this siege. ( )
  NeedMoreShelves | Feb 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
The Siege is an agonising read, but also a numbing one. The novel, which narrates the first and worst winter of a siege that lasted from 1941 until 1944, animates the senses in order to feel them shutting down.
added by kake | editThe Guardian, John Mullan (Feb 5, 2011)
 
[L]anguage that is elegantly, starkly beautiful. . . quieter and more powerful than her earlier work.
 
In limpid and careful prose, with an intermittently choric narrator, Dunmore presents a community in travail.
added by kake | editThe Independent (Jun 16, 2001)
 
Admirers of Dunmore's thrillers such as Talking to the Dead and With Your Crooked Heart may be disappointed by her decision to wrestle with the raw materials of history. Nevertheless, it is the lasting achievement of The Siege convincingly to narrate a horrifying war story from the point of view of the hearth, not the trenches.
added by kake | editThe Observer, Michael Williams (Jun 10, 2001)
 
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To Ros Cuthbert
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Re: The future of Leningrad

...The Fuehrer has decided to have Leningrad wiped from the face of the earth.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802139582, Paperback)

The Siege is one of those novels that is as redemptive as it is shattering, and they don't come much more shattering than this. The year is 1941, and the good people of Leningrad are squeezed between fear of Stalin's secret police and rumors that the Germans, despite the incredulity of military experts, are rapidly advancing on their great city. When the inevitable happens, 22-year-old Anna, an artist and the sole support for her young brother, invalid father, and the latter's former mistress, learns to survive the devastation and mass starvation that the siege brings. In the worst days of winter, Anna falls in love with a doctor, Andrei, who returns her passion, creating an oasis of emotional privacy within the hell of war. The Siege is expertly anchored in sometimes unbearable details of the assault on Leningrad; the book's sense of place and the author's great skill at pumping immediacy into the cold facts is something to behold. But this is, finally, a novel about extremes of experience, from rampant cruelty to the redemptive power of one person's love. --Tom Keogh

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:53 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Leningrad, September 1941: German forces surround the city, imprisoning those who live there. The besieged people of Leningrad face shells, starvation and the Russian winter.

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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