A review of helen dunmores novel the siege

He had spread out the charts on his knees many times, for hours on end, after dinner, when everyone else in his great house at Bursa was sleeping.

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They spoke more and more often of the plain they hoped to see before them as soon as possible. Rain was still falling and drumming on the tent. Nobody knew her age, and nor did she. Anna's mother died when Kolya was born, and Anna must also feed her ailing father, the writer Mikhail, who has fallen out of favor with the government. Andrei is not an oncologist, but an adroit manoeuvre by a colleague leaves him with the dreaded job of handling the case. The realism of the senses is at the heart of Helen Dunmore's The Siege, which imagines the experience of enduring the siege of Leningrad during the second world war. People said he must have still had some friends in high places, even if he had enemies aplenty.

The Siegewith its tight domestic focus, is resolutely no War and Peace nor, thankfully, no romantic melodrama.

It had been the longest and most exhausting expedition of his soldiering life.

a spell of winter

As characters change in the novel, so does the city. And with terrifying speed the fragile shell of a safe life together, which he and Anna have constructed and protected with such caution and endurance throughout the war years, begins to disintegrate. Hunger means hunger, terror means terror, enemy means enemy.

the siege by helen dunmore summary

By the time we meet him, he is a memory of his former vibrant, publishing self; he is in pain and degradation, with a lost sense of self. The same is true of Dunmore's Leningrad: a quote from the opening stanza of Pushkin's "Bronze Horseman" is inevitable.

A review of helen dunmores novel the siege

Dunmore may be following a literary tradition of personifying the city begun by Pushkin, but she imitates rather than develops the theme. Invaders can come again. The moon had not yet risen. The night was going to be as long as a winter night. Then at the fearsome banner, the two-headed black eagle whose outline he could barely make out. The siege will continue for eighteen more months, but its grip has been loosened. This I should not be writing down. The "blue-tinged face" of one woman desperately bartering for food proclaims her "a goner". Is it art, ultimately—pictures, poetry, novels—that will preserve human lives?

When is she petty or jealous or resentful? If everything was decided up on high, why did Allah put them through so many trials, why did he allow them to spill so much blood?

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The Pasha felt he was quite close to the sky and separated from it only by the feeble crown of his tent. He forgot all about her.

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What he missed was his distant homeland, Anatolia. Lydia Ginzburg's Notes of a Blockade Survivor are also apparent, while Nadezhda Mandelstam's memoirs give Marina and Mikhail, archetypal members of the post-revolution intelligentsia, their depth. Thousands will starve or freeze before spring, but Dunmore shuns the moral numbness of numbers. With a blush in her cheeks and her head on the pillow, she marvelled at the harsh and rough-hewn face of the man to whom she belonged. Everybody knew it was a bad omen. After early waves of hopeful or terrified rumour, people become oblivious to any larger narrative of the war. To one camp He had given ramparts and iron doors to defend itself, and to the other, ladders and ropes to try to overcome them, and He was content just to be a spectator of the ensuing butchery. Everything solidified so quickly. Anna can offer Andrei only hot-water "tea", and when they share a bed it is a practical gesture: the two huddle close, with Kolya between them, to keep warm and to stay alive. How is Pushkin important to Mikhail? Indoors you become torpid. We think of Job as she is beset by adversities.
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The Siege by Helen Dunmore