In September 1941, Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in what was to become one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history - almost three years of bombardment and starvation that culminated in the harsh winter of 1943-1944. More than a million citizens perished. Survivors recall corpses littering the frozen streets, their relatives having neither the means nor the strength to bury them. Residents burned books, furniture, and floorboards to keep warm; they ate family pets and - eventually - one another to stay alive.
Trapped between the Nazi invading force and the Soviet government itself was composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who would write a symphony that roused, rallied, eulogized, and commemorated his fellow citizens - the Leningrad Symphony, which came to occupy a surprising place of prominence in the eventual Allied victory.
This is the true story of a city under siege: the triumph of bravery and defiance in the face of terrifying odds. It is also a look at the power - and layered meaning - of music in beleaguered lives. Symphony for the City of the Dead is a masterwork thrillingly told and impeccably researched by National Book Award-winning author M. T. Anderson.
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An Eye-Opening, Emotional Tale
- Jeffrey B. Randall
This book blew me away
I'll have to wait a while until I listen to this again, just because it is so intense. I had to carry tissues while I listened because the tears kept coming, both from sorrow and joy. I usually avoid books read by the author, but MT Anderson did a fantastic job.
The people of Leningrad who inexplicably survived the siege really formed the backbone of the story. Anderson provided a balanced portrayal of the good, the bad and the ugly of ordinary people struggling through unimaginable horror.
The emotional denouement was the performance of the 7th symphony in a starving Leningrad still under siege. People who had been eating wallpaper paste for months found the grace to be moved by a piece of music.
This is the kind of book you force on people, begging them to read it just so you can discuss it with somebody. It's technically a young adult book, but I'm middle aged and never found it simplistic. I wish this book could replace To Kill a Mockingbird, which my kids read in high school a few years ago; the possibilities for meaningful discussion are amazing.