The Siege: Book summary and reviews of The Siege by Helen Dunmore

The Siege

A Novel

by Helen Dunmore

The Siege by Helen Dunmore
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2002
    304 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In a novel whose every observation is so sharp the words almost hurt, Dunmore takes a giant step away from her praised domestic psychological dramas set in England. ... Lauded by the British critics last year, the novel is a signal achievement, and Anna is a true heroine for our times - tender in love, passionate in art, unyielding in her will to survive." - Publishers Weekly

"Any library with even a smattering of World War II material will want this extraordinary novel for its readers." - Library Journal

"Dunmore's portrayal of the Leningrad tragedy alerts readers' senses to all that is basically human and necessary for our survival. Heart-wrenching to read, but impossible to put down, this is quite an inspirational book." - Booklist

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Author Information

Helen Dunmore Author Biography

Helen Dunmore was born in Yorkshire, England in 1952. In a career spanning three decades she published fifteen novels, three short story collections, prize-winning children's fiction and twelve collections of poetry. Her final novel, Birdcage Walk, was published in 2017, as was her last poetry collection, Inside the Wave. Dunmore died on June 5, 2017, aged 64.

Of her many novels, most are works of historical fiction, ranging in time and setting from ancient Rome in Counting the Stars (2008) to the Cold War world of espionage in Exposure (2016). Her debut, Zennor in Darkness (1993) was set in World War I. Twentieth century conflicts, and their effects on individuals and families are subjects she returned to frequently. Many of her books also center on themes of secrecy and ...

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