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The Siege

(The Siege #1)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  5,292 ratings  ·  489 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
Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 22nd 2002 by Grove Press (first published 2001)
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Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
The novel revolves around five interwoven lives during the war when Leningrad was completely surrounded by the Germans. Winter came and there was no food or coal, it was a brutal winter and one half of the population of the city perished.

There are fantastic descriptions of what the city looked and felt like. The heroism of the people who were described was incredible. There is so much history to be learned for this book, love, determination, heroism, redemption, survival, it's all there.

Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
First and foremost, I'd describe The Siege as a very claustrophobic novel. It takes place in Stalingrad during the German assault but I rarely had a sense of a city in this book. It often felt like the characters were living in virtual isolation in the midst of some dystopian wasteland. It always felt the world was far removed. When a character left the apartment I saw not city streets but a kind of anonymous rural landscape. I was never quite convinced the author could see Stalingrad; not once ...more
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This turned out to be a deeply absorbing and fascinating story about the seige of Lenigrad. It describes in detail the terrible trauma of living through such an ordeal when half the population of the city died from starvation and the cold, and their bodies were buried in mass graves.

In The Siege we follow the day to day lives of a family living at the point of starvation and surviving on things such as wallpaper paste and tea made from water and a teaspoon of honey. At one point they eat a guin
Roger Brunyate
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Waiting for Spring

Helen Dunmore's marvelous novel (surely her best*) begins with Spring in 1941:
And then, just when it seemed as if summer would forget about Leningrad this year, everything changed. Ice broke loose from the compacted mass around the Strelka. Seagulls preened on the floes as the current swept them under bridges, and down the widening Neva to the sea.
It will end with Spring a year later, but by that time a large part of the Leningrad population will have died of cold or malnut
Roman Clodia
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
...The Fuehrer has decided to have Leningrad wiped from the face of the earth.

Such a harrowing read as Dunmore gives us an insight into what it was like to live through the first winter of the siege of Leningrad. In another author's hands this might have been lush with romantic melodrama, but Dunmore keeps it clean and cold, allowing the details to speak for themselves: Kolya's childish whining as he cannot understand why he can't have another spoonful of precious hoarded jam; the quiet yet
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nadin Adel
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, borrowed

"The high-up ones start things, but it's us who have to finish them off."

The bottom line of all wars!

I have always liked reading novels reflecting the war and the wounds it inflicts on ordinary people's lives. This is a story celebrating love, life and survival through the second world war, World War II.

First, as a rookie reader in history, let's start with some information to backup our historic background information.

And know more about the siege of
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
Story set immediately before and during the first year of the Siege of Leningrad - it focuses around 5 characters: a dissident writer Mikhail, his nursery-school teacher daughter Anna, his son Kolya (as his Doctor wife - the strong willed Vera - died in childbirth, Anna effectively is Kolya's mother) and Marina (a reclusive and discredited artist friend of Mikhail, who comes to live with them after the siege and who it becomes clear was a once lover of Mikhail) and Andrei (a Doctor who works on ...more
The 3 star rating reflects my reaction to this book rather than its quality. I can appreciate that this is not a book to be enjoyed as such given its horrific subject matter but I really didn’t enjoy the experience of reading it. I found the narrative stilted and too episodic and I didn’t feel particular empathy for any of the characters. It was always going to be depressing but I found it turgidly so by halfway through and I am very grateful to have finished. Having read other reviews, I’m defi ...more
Caroline Bock
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent historical novel, which opens in 1941 Leningrad at the precipice of the German invasion, is the story of Anna, an artist and her family and their survival in the siege. Moving. Terrific read for anyone interested in historical dramas of this time period, or who just like a gripping, beautifully written story of survival and love.
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Odd to be reading this book when the radio is reporting women and children starving in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya. We never learn the lessons of history.

This book tells the story of another siege. That of Leningrad in 1941. It was encircled by the invading German army for an incredible three years during the second world war. The book tells the story of the Levin family. Principally 23 year old Anna, who has to care for her wounded and enfeebled father Mikhail, and her 5 year old brother
Claire Huston
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Beautiful and rightfully bleak. 4/5 stars.

This review was originally posted on my book blog.

I got a copy of this from the library. It sat on the table and stared at me for four weeks. I couldn’t bring myself to progress past the opening page on which there is a reproduction of the order from Nazi High Command for Leningrad (St Petersburg) to be wiped off the face of the earth. I had a feeling reading this one would take strength, and I was right.

Obviously, any book which attempts to faithfully r
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019, ww2
I am a big fan of historical fiction set during WWII and will never miss the opportunity to explore this topic from new angles. The Siege of Leningrad features in one of my all-time favourite historical novels, The Bronze Horseman series by Paullina Simons, and I was very keen to explore it through the eyes of another author.

Dunmore’s writing style is unique and compelling and she manages to put a whole new perspective on that terrible historical event for me. Whilst we do have an MC in Anna Le
Michele Brenton
Jul 14, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I wavered between 3 and 4 stars. Given its subject matter, it's hard for me to say that I enjoyed this book. I certainly found it interesting and very well written. Dunmore intensely evokes the horror of the circumstances of people in Leningrad in 1941. And in this respect, it is essentially a book about hunger; how hunger and starvation defined every moment and feeling of the characters in that time and place. The writing even simulates the lightheadedness, disjointed thinking and hallucination ...more
Steven Z.
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it

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
Carole P. Roman
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Harrowing tale about the siege of Leningrad. Anna Levin is the overworked daughter of a writer, who's been blacklisted from the Soviet government for producing inciteful work. Her mother dead these past five years in childbirth has left her to take care of both her little brother and disengaged father. She works a menial job as a nursery school aide and feels worthless compared to her intellectual parents. War changes everything. Anna is forced to become the leader of her small family, scavengin ...more
Now we know that they don't just want to defeat us. They want to destroy us. Nothing in Leningrad matters to them at all. Not a stone, or a child. Carthage must be destroyed.
But there's freedom in knowing it. We can't make deals with them any more. So much for our pact. We have no choice left. We have to resist.

It's a heroic struggle, of course it is. Everything's heroic. You can take that for granted, but it's not the point.
I may lower the rating for this some time in the future. It ac
Jul 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mainstream, read_2010
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
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately Helen Dunmore passed away on June 5, 2017. I did like The favorite amongst the books I read of hers. As I recall she was one of the earl winners of the Orange Prize.
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
OK, I accept that most people think this is wonderful so it can't be the book - it must be me. But I'm bored out of my skull and can't bear to go on with it. I feel nothing for any of these characters. They simply haven't come to life. At 34%, there is no story - just endless descriptions of life with the occasional untragic tragedy thrown in in an attempt to up the emotional impact. But there is no emotional impact about the deaths of people we have been told nothing about. It's like the guys i ...more
Chris Demer
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-novel
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
I've read several of Helen Dunmore's historical fiction novels and they're all good but there always seems to be something missing at the end. This one was no different. I found the story of the siege of Leningrad really interesting. There is no doubt that it is one aspect of World War II which I didn't know a great deal about. The characters were good and the tension which builds over that long winter of 1941/42 was compelling. But I found the ending was a bit of a damp squib. A pity, really as ...more
Impressive for the way Dunmore conveys what it must have been like to live through a seige, in this case the seige of Leningrad during WWII. Less impressive when it comes to the characters. I failed to believe in them fully and I don't know why. Was it because she used names from Tolstoy which caused me to make comparisons subconsciously? I would appreciate hearing other people's reactions. ...more
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
Contrary to what is said on the cover, "The Seige" is none of the following:

Brilliantly imagined.
Profoundly moving.
What you would expect of the result of a long fascination with Russian history, it's people and culture.

It is dull.

If you want to read profound writing on human deprivation and suffering then you'd be better off with Primo Levi or a good history book.
Jun 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Review to follow
Jessica Haider
I enjoy reading winter reads in January. The Siege by Helen Dunmore was published almost 20 years ago and was short listed for the Women’s Fiction Prize. It tells the story of Anna, a young woman living In Leningrad with her father and baby brother during the winter when the city has under Siege by the Germans. This was a brutal and emotional yet beautiful read about love and perseverance during wartime.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Helen Dunmore’s novel ‘The Siege’ is a fantastic novel. A piece of historical fiction that will forever stand as a defining work and fitting testament to the endurance of the human spirit in the face of unbelievable suffering of millions of ordinary people in Leningrad, soldiers and citizens, at the hands of two odious regimes in the Nazi-Soviet conflict of World War Two. She tells the story of the siege which lasted for 872 days with appalling human suffering and extraordinary loss of civilian ...more
Joyce Bostock
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
I couldn't get into this book. ...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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