The Siege by Helen Dunmore
A Novel

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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. The Siege marks an exciting new phase in a brilliant career, observed Publishers Weekly in a starred review: "Dunmore has built a sizable audience ... but this book should lift her to another level of literary prominence." "Dunmore's ... novel ... is an intimate record of an extraordinary human disaster ... a moving story of personal triumph and public tragedy." -- Laura Ciolkowski, San Francisco Chronicle "In Helen Dunmore's hands, this epic subject assumes a lyrical honesty that sometimes wrenches but more often lifts the spirit." -- Frances Taliaferro, The Washington Post "Dunmore unravels the tangle of suffering, war, and base emotions to produce a story woven with love ... Extraordinary." -- Barbara Conaty, Library Journal (starred review)

About Helen Dunmore

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HELEN DUNMORE is a novelist, a short story writer, and a poet. She has written twenty-two children's books, including Brother Brother, Sister Sister; The Lilac Tree; The Seal Cove; and the bestselling Ingo series. She has written nine adult books including A Spell of Winter, which won the 1996 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her poetry collections have won the Poetry Society's Alice Hunt Bartlett Award and the Signal Poetry Award. Helen Dunmore was born in Yorkshire, England, and now lives in Bristol with her husband and children. Visit her online at
Published November 22, 2002 by Grove Press. 304 pages
Genres: History, War, Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Siege

Kirkus Reviews

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A small knot of people fight to survive the Nazi siege of Leningrad in a book that feels more like history than it does like a novel.

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The Guardian

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When Marina and Anna boil up a pigskin manicure case with the wallpaper paste from Kolya's toy fort to make "soup", the reader is pulled back to the homemade jam Marina offers Anna on their first meeting, and the trout Mikhail and Kolya cook on her return.

Jun 02 2001 | Read Full Review of The Siege: A Novel

The Guardian

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Anna, nevertheless, is a typical Dunmore heroine, deeply and sensually fascinated by the mysteries of the natural world, and forced by the deprivations of wartime to become almost animal in her defence of her family, an ageing father and her baby brother, Kolya.

Jun 10 2001 | Read Full Review of The Siege: A Novel

BC Books

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A compelling story of love and survival as a city is left to starve.

Apr 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The Siege: A Novel

BC Books

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But after you have read The Siege by Helen Dunmore, I'm willing to bet you will think twice before uttering those words too often.

Apr 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The Siege: A Novel

Book Reporter

Set beside the insistence of hunger, all other things --- love, treachery, art, modesty, beauty --- may seem irrelevant, but they do not go away;

Jan 23 2011 | Read Full Review of The Siege: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

In her harrowing tale of war's desolation and the human capacity to endure affliction, Orange Prize-winning author Dunmore paints a nuanced portrait of the personal battles of citizens trapped amid the bloody trenches of WWII, where a quarter slice is your daily bread and the touch of a hand...

Jan 18 2002 | Read Full Review of The Siege: A Novel

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