JoLee's Reviews > Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2015, e-book, non-fiction, young-adult, review-copy, intellectual-recreation, world-war-ii

Featured in "Historical Nonfiction for Young Readers" on Intellectual Recreation.

This book about the life and work of Dmitri Shostakovich, the great Russian composer, is absolutely exquisite. It will be on my favorite reads of the year post.

I read Symphony for the City of the Dead along with several other nonfiction history books as I prepared for a post about historical nonfiction. One of the other books that I read for this post was Candace Fleming's The Family Romanov. Anderson's book picks up just about where Fleming's leaves off, which made me feel like I got a really good review of Russian history over a 70 year period. Also, all that good background information that I gleaned from Fleming's book definitely helped prepare me for this one.

M.T. Anderson deftly navigates atrocities of Stalin's reign, the siege of Leningrad, the experimental art of the 1920s and 30s, and explorations of what art can do. I appreciate modern art and modern music, and so, I found the first part of this book just as interesting as the later chapters that dealt with the war. Russian history is so horrifying in many ways. Anderson does an excellent job conveying the very tricky situation that Shostakovich is in for most of his life and how dangerous Stalinist Russia was for anyone that did not toe the party line (and really for those who did as well).

I read most of Symphony for the City of the Dead while listening to Shostakovich's music which made for a very enjoyable, emotional, and wonderfully aesthetic reading experience. First of all, there is no doubt that Anderson is a master wordsmith, and I was incredibly impressed wit how well he is able to convey the feeling of music with his words. The symphonies themselves proved a powerful backdrop to the Great Terror and the siege. (Listen to Symphony #4 while you read about the Great Terror. Listen to Symphony #5 as you read about Shostakovich navigation of this tricky political climate. Listen to the Leningrad Symphony (Symphony #7) as you read about World War II and the Siege of Leningrad.) I realize that not everyone will appreciate Shostakovich's music (personally, I like modern, experimental music), but, I find that modern art is more easily appreciated when you have a little background, and this book will give you that. Honestly, I do not know how anyone could read Anderson's words and not desperately want to listen to Shostakovich's music.

Reading this book (while listening to Shostakovich's music), gave me a wonderful education on both Russia's role in World War II and Dmitri Shostakovich's art.

Review copy from NetGalley

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 15, 2015 – Finished Reading
December 26, 2015 – Shelved
December 26, 2015 – Shelved as: 2015
December 26, 2015 – Shelved as: e-book
December 26, 2015 – Shelved as: non-fiction
December 26, 2015 – Shelved as: young-adult
December 26, 2015 – Shelved as: review-copy
December 26, 2015 – Shelved as: intellectual-recreation
July 6, 2018 – Shelved as: world-war-ii

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