Helen Dunmore The Siege: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780802139580

The Siege: A Novel

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9780802139580: The Siege: A Novel
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Called "elegantly, starkly beautiful" by The New York Times Book Review, The Siege is Helen Dunmore's masterpiece. Her canvas is monumental -- the Nazis' 1941 winter siege on Leningrad that killed six hundred thousand -- but her focus is heartrendingly intimate. One family, the Levins, fights to stay alive in their small apartment, held together by the unlikely courage and resourcefulness of twenty-two-year-old Anna. Though she dreams of an artist's life, she must instead forage for food in the ever more desperate city and watch her little brother grow cruelly thin. Their father, a blacklisted writer who once advocated a robust life of the mind, withers in spirit and body. At such brutal times everything is tested. And yet Dunmore's inspiring story shows that even then, the triumph of the human heart is that love need not fall away. "The novel's imaginative richness," writes The Washington Post, "lies in this implicit question: In dire physical circumstances, is it possible to have an inner life? The answer seems to be that no survival is possible without one." Amid the turmoil of the siege, the unimaginable happens -- two people enter the Levins' frozen home and bring a kind of romance where before there was only bare survival. A sensitive young doctor becomes Anna's devoted partner, and her father is allowed a transcendent final episode with a mysterious woman from his past. The Siege marks an exciting new phase in a brilliant career, observed Publishers Weekly in a starred review: "Dunmore has built a sizable audience ... but this book should lift her to another level of literary prominence." "Dunmore's ... novel ... is an intimate record of an extraordinary human disaster ... a moving story of personal triumph and public tragedy." -- Laura Ciolkowski, San Francisco Chronicle "In Helen Dunmore's hands, this epic subject assumes a lyrical honesty that sometimes wrenches but more often lifts the spirit." -- Frances Taliaferro, The Washington Post "Dunmore unravels the tangle of suffering, war, and base emotions to produce a story woven with love ... Extraordinary." -- Barbara Conaty, Library Journal (starred review)

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Review:

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

From AudioFile:

Few things are more affecting to read than the well-crafted war novel. THE SIEGE is especially harrowing because of its focus on civilian casualties, the people held captive during the siege of Leningrad in 1941. Jilly Bond follows the Levin family, first through its regular routine, then through its plunge into the devastation of WWII as it creeps toward them and changes their lives forever. Despite its brutal subject matter, this is a beautifully written novel with phrases that will haunt the listener with their subtlety. Bond's British accent proves a flexible, appropriate vehicle for this exceptional prose. L.B.F. © AudioFile 2003, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

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