The Siege
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The Siege (The Siege #1)

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,609 ratings  ·  178 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 22nd 2002 by Grove Press (first published 2001)
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The Bronze Horseman by Paullina SimonsAnna Karenina by Leo TolstoyWar and Peace by Leo TolstoyDoctor Zhivago by Boris PasternakTatiana and Alexander by Paullina Simons
Historical Fiction: Russia
23rd out of 131 books — 223 voters
Against The Tide by John F. HanleyThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakPhenomena by Susan TarrThe Orphans of Dachau by Anthony HulseThe Winds of War by Herman Wouk
Best 1940s Historical Fiction
69th out of 163 books — 223 voters


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Community Reviews

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Lara
As I read this book on my couch after dinner, drinking a beer and enjoying the warm summer night, I found myself tensing against a monstrous cold that had become so physical that I couldn't unfeel it despite my knowledge that it was only words on paper.

In The Siege, Dunmore weaves together the huge and small stories of the siege of Leningrad in a way that reminded me of The Grapes of Wrath and The Book Thief. It's very effective; the grand descriptions of the land and the cold create a mythical...more
Steven Z.

On June 22, 1941 Adolf Hitler unleashed Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union. The Germans surprised the Russians who suffered enormous casualties and retreated into the interior. The Russians had been warned by the British of Nazi intentions, but Joseph Stalin ignored the British, reasoning that London wanted to create another front in its war against Germany. Stalin did expect Hitler to break the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August, 1939 but he believed he had more time to prepare. Stalin was i...more
Amelia
As a rule, I'm not one of those people who believes we have to be happy for being born into a time and part of the world where most people have healthcare, running water, heating, food on their tables... It's hard enough being depressed without feeling guilty about it too. But books like The Siege really bring it home that actually we are lucky. It is set during the blockade of Leningrad during which an estimated 1.5 million people died. It is a tale of survival, but not everyone survives. The l...more
Michele Brenton
I've been given this as a book club read. I've read the first chapter and I am distinctly unimpressed.

I don't like books that break the fourth wall. It annoys me, destroys the illusion and makes me feel patronised. It was bad enough when Enid Blyton did it - but I can't stomach it in an adult read unless it is done for comedic effect or it is a memoir/first person narrative and the writer is speaking in real time. I can't accept it in a piece of work firmly set in the 1940s.

This single sentence...more
Chris Demer
This is a wonderful story of love amid deprivation and war during the siege of Leningrad. All the more meaningful because I have visited St. Petersburg (Leningrad) and taken the walking tour of the siege.
The Author exquisitely describes the life there - in the summer at the dacha and the planting, writing, drawing. And then the return to the city and the growing awareness that the Germans have surrounded it, constantly shelling, but more importantly cutting off the food supply to millions of pe...more
Liviu
Since the sequel was just longlisted for the Booker and I dimly remembered reading and disliking this one a long time ago, i wanted to make sure and indeed I remembered it well; the main issue of the novel for me and the one that basically made it a fail is the world building; the 1941 Leningrad just does not feel Russian or Soviet; it can be "city generic TM" under very "nasty circumstances TM" in which "characters TM" try and survive...

It may have literary qualities, but it would have better...more
Tom
Read it in summer.

Very interesting (chick-flick) viewpoint on the horrendous siege of Leningrad. Perhaps a bit slow, by war-book standards, but that is because it is about the people, and non-combatants (if that word has any meaning in the 20th century) at that. I found it oddly vivid, waking up cold and hungry in the middle of the night, despite warm temps and a full belly.

Tom
James Murphy
Helen Dunmore is quite the writer and has written a fine novel in The Siege. It's a novel of a group of characters caught up in the hard siege of Leningrad during the first terrible winter of 1941-42. Though a reader of military history, I know next to nothing about the German investment of the city except that it apparently lasted for, as Harrison Salisbury famously related, 900 days. But Dunmore seems to me to have it right. Her novel depicts what must have been the darkest of those days befor...more
DubaiReader
The Siege of Leningrad.

The opening page of this book is a translation of a decree, issued under the direction of Hitler, stating that the city of Leningrad is of no value to the Germans and will be wiped out. No mercy is to be given to its citizens, who will die from starvation, disease or shelling. Helen Dunmore's novel illustrates the human side of this announcement; hundreds, thousands, even millions of people struggling to live on rations that could be cut at any time, in temperatures that w...more
Lucy
It's been quite a long time since I last read a story based around the second world war, seeing as it's the nearest I get to reading a particular genre it is something I read fairly frequently. I don't think I've read anything set in Russia during this time before (or at least not wholly based in Russia) so I was glad to expand my horizons a little. I must admit just recently I've not had much luck with these types of books, often finding myself disappointed, and I was hoping The Siege would be...more
Sarah
A skillful and intense novel about living through the German siege of Leningrad during the winter of 1941. When the siege begins, Anna is a young nursery school assistant who's been robbed of a career in the arts (and saddled with a dependent 5-year-old brother) by the premature death of her mother. We meet her, and her father and brother, just before the siege, when they're growing vegetables at their dacha and feeling relatively stable, even if Anna's writer father has been classed as too much...more
Anne
This is an emotionally compelling novel that often reads like poetry. It can serve as a companion piece to Anna Reid's more recent nonfiction account of the siege of Leningrad ("Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944"). I was not only impressed by the beauty of Dunmore's prose, particularly in her depiction of the city of St. Petersburg/Leningrad itself, but also by her ability to weave an astonishing amount of historical research into her narrative, seamlessly and accurately. Dunm...more
Mark
“ A ring of siege grips the city. Nothing comes in, nothing goes out. And in the suburbs, within sight, the Germans have dug themselves in…There they squat in the outskirts of Leningrad, like wolves at the mouth of a cave.”

Against this forbidding backdrop, is a tale of love and survival. The strength of family and of boundless determination. We follow Anna, a young nursery teacher, her father, a black-listed writer and her much younger brother, struggling to live in a cramped apartment, with dwi...more
Shelley Fearn
Why does this book only have a 3.87 rating? This is an incredible story. Anna, a 22 year old woman, strives to keep her father, her father's former lover, and her brother alive during the siege of Leningrad in 1941. I don't think that I need to give the whole story away. Thousands of people starved during that first winter when the city was cut off by the German army.

Outside of the horrors that the citizens of Leningrad endured, Dunmore's writing is clear and precise. She tells the story without...more
Mary
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fari Manonose
DO NOT GIVE UP AFTER FIRST FEW CHAPTERS!!! This book is, hands down one of the most amazing books I have ever read. We did the book at school and I read it last year so I don't remember much except that it was exceptional. The story was told in such a beautiful way.

It made me feel everything described. I could feel the cold. I felt the strange love Ana shared with Andre. I felt her frustration with her Father. I felt her love for her little brother I also felt her sense of abandonment from her...more
Jeanette Jenkins
This novel is brilliantly written from a woman's perspective of war. It tells of agonizing hunger and the two causes of death during the Siege of Leningrad - shelling & starvation. People are trying to survive on very meagre rations. They are pushed to far beyond normal limits of survival because of warfare & the Blockade, which is caused essentially by selfishness, a quest for power & dominance. However, the heroine - Anna - is an example of how someone rises above horrible circumst...more
Lauri
A fascinating, and horrifying, look behind the walls into the seige of Leningrad in 1941. Worth the read- it made me really take a look at the food I eat, and the little things I take for granted.
Julie
Stunning- the description of the cold and hunger was so physical it was like a visible enemy outside trying to reach in.
Carol
An astonishing novel, deeply moving. Memorable for the bigger picture of the desperate cold, sickness and starvation in besieged 1941 Leningrad, it is also about one family. 22 year old Anna's daily battle to provide food and warmth enough for a basic existence (boiling paper mâché for what nutrients might be in the wallpaper paste) provides a profoundly moving story. Her complete dedication to her little brother and her novelist father is testament to the courage of the human spirit as is her l...more
Don Edgar

This is definitely a good book but not really the "masterpiece" described in the reviews. I read it because I had read (and loved) "Ice Road" by Gillian Slovo and "Unforgiving Years" by Victor Serge, each of which had sections set during the WWII Siege of Leningrad. Each of these books left me hungering for more.

Miss Dunmore clearly has abundant literary skills and does a wonderful job describing everyday life during the siege, but it somehow became tedious imagining her heroine pulling a sled f...more
Sooz
i read Betrayal (or is it The Betrayal?) first, liked it and decided i'd like to read more about this period in Russian history. The Betrayal has a subtle yet compelling suspense to it that is lacking in The Siege, and really? there is only so many ways to describe how hungry one is. or how cold. how weak. there is really very little story in terms of character development or plot and to be honest, about halfway through, my mind began to wander. does that sound heartless of me?

for me, if this s...more
epg
Well, even though the population of a city is slowly starved and/or frozen to death (that is, those who have not already been shot or had a bomb dropped on them), this story is a celebration of life. I left this book feeling uplifted.

To begin with, the suffering feels real, it feels painful, and that’s why one can only come away from this book feeling appreciative of all that we take for granted. Having groceries in the fridge is the most obvious one, but there are also the basics like our desir...more
Roberta
The Siege è un libro quasi ingannevole. La copertina sfumata mostra un paesaggio imbiancato, le prime pagine descrivono le notti bianche e l'arrivo della primavera, quella sensazione di risveglio, di solletichio che proviamo anche noi mediterranei quando la stagione si apre, figuriamoci i russi con gli inverni che si ritrovano... Certo, la vita di Anna non è delle più semplici: ha dovuto lasciare gli studi per allevare il fratellino Kolja, quando la madre è morta dandolo alla luce. E il padre è...more
Gail Amendt
Someone said in their review of this book that it should be read in the summer, but I think that a cold snap in the middle of a Canadian winter was the perfect time to read this book. It made me truly appreciate what the people went through during the Siege of Leningrad. I marveled, as I came in from deep snow and -20 Celsius temperatures, warmly dressed and well fed, with a warm house to return to, that anyone managed to survive the siege in such weather with inadequate clothing and inadequate...more
John
'The Siege' is a dramatic story of a young woman and her family and their struggles during the winter of 1941-1942 when the Germans sieged Leningrad. It is estimated that more than 1 million Leningraders died during this winter, primarily due to starvation as the Germans trapped the citizens in their own city. The author, Helen Dunmore, skillfully captures what it is like to be faced with the rationing of food in the following passage:

"You could lie all night long, dreaming of the crust you've p...more
Tim Cole
Reason for reading:
Helen Dunmore is an incredibly intelligent writer of fiction in historical settings and this is about as amazing a setting as you can get. When I went to Leningrad in 1988 I was taken by a very proud young female guide to a cemetery - just one of many - where bodies from the siege were buried. As you walked along there were mass graves for the military dead on one side and for the civilian dead on the other. They had buried an estimated 26,000 people in that one cemetery. At t...more
Elif
Meine Meinung
Wer meinen Blog schon ein Weilchen liest, weiß sicher schon, dass ich eine Schwäche für Romane über das Russland des 20. Jahrhunderts habe. Vor allem „Die Liebenden von Leningrad“ konnte mich so sehr für die Geschichte dieses Landes begeistern, dass ich seitdem alles Wissen aufsauge, das damit und ganz besonders mit der Belagerung von Leningrad zu tun hat. So habe ich auch schon „Stadt der Diebe“ verschlungen und zuletzt war es „Die tausend Tage der Anna Michailowna“.

Vorweg sei ges...more
Jennifer
Probably a 3 1/2 star, but I'm feeling generous (and quite happy I didn't live in Leningrad during the Siege!)

Lyrical at times, and definitely depressing at others, this is the story of Anna (mostly) and her attempts to keep her family strong during the horrible winter of 1941/1942, when the German siege of Leningrad resulted in about a million deaths. Dunmore does such a good job describing the starvation, the cold, and the despair faced by the Leningraders, that I often thought I was hungry or...more
Sam Still Reading
Apr 03, 2011 Sam Still Reading rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in Russia during the war
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: bought the sequel
I came to read The Siege in rather a roundabout way. I bought the sequel, The Betrayal, at Singapore’s Changi airport with my last Singaporean dollars due to its interesting cover and its Stalinist Russia setting. Settling in to read this book at home the next day, my first thought was ‘Uh-oh! Sequel!’ Thanks to the wonders of ebooks and the interest, I was able to download The Siege from Kobo and start reading in under 10 minutes. A store can’t beat that!

The Siege covers the Leningrad siege dur...more
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I was born in December 1952, in Yorkshire, the second of four children. My father was the eldest of twelve, and this extended family has no doubt had a strong influence on my life, as have my own children. In a large family you hear a great many stories. You also come to understand very early that stories hold quite different meanings for different listeners, and can be recast from many viewpoints...more
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“They wanted spring, of course they wanted it, more than anything. They longed for sun with every pore of their skin. But spring hurts. If spring can come, if things can be different, how can you bear what your existence has been?” 3 likes
“They stand close for a while, not touching, but breathing each other's breath. The city is silent now, as if for peace.” 0 likes
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