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The Siege

(The Siege #1)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  4,665 ratings  ·  434 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
Shelves: 5000-2019
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
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
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
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
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 couldnt 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
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww2, read-in-2019
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.

Dunmores 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
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 ...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
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, ...more
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 ...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
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
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.
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 ...more
Joyce Bostock
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
I couldn't get into this book.
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Siege of Leningrad was merely one of many shocking human attrocities in the second world war. To say so many hundreds of thousands of people starved to death is a horrible statistic, but it is with personal stories, be they real people or fictional as with this book, that it really hits home how destructive it was. The little boy who is too tired due to hunger to play with his toys. The little baby across the way who starved to death. It's just heartbreaking. And the awful thing is, they go ...more
Jan 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
James Murphy
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Sarah Coleman
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Peter Upton
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A beautifully written book that had me riveted from page one. Set initially in pre war Leningrad where Stalin's purges of the population are running amok and everyone is terrified of their own shadow and especially of the incautious word that will result in the early morning knock on their door and the trip in the black van from which they know they will never return. The book then moves on to the German invasion and the siege of Leningrad. If you really want to know what it is like to live on ...more
Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A ring of siege grips the city. Nothing comes in, nothing goes out. And in the suburbs, within sight, the Germans have dug themselves inThere 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
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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 ...more

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