Thursday, May 31, 2018

Symphony for the City of the Dead

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Book talk: A city of millions cut off from the rest of the world and left to starve. People killing for ration cards, which provide a mere 125 grams of bread made with sawdust mixed in to the flour. Desperate people resorting to cannibalizing the plentiful corpses lining the street. It sounds like the premise for a YA dystopian novel, but it really happened. In 1941 Nazi forces blockaded the city of Leningrad in a siege that would last two and a half years and result in the deaths of over a million people. One of the people trapped in the city was composer Dmitri Shostakovitch. When he escaped the city, he wrote a symphony that would commemorate those lost and give hope to those still trapped. This is his true story.

Rave: This thick, nonfiction tome should have taken me ages to slog through, but instead I tore through it like it was the latest sci-fi thriller. I don't have any particular interest in WWII or classical music and I'd never even heard of Dmitri Shostakovitch, but I love M.T. Anderson so I picked the book up anyway and I'm so glad I did. The story is at turns moving, disturbing, and triumphant. The prose is as beautiful as I expect from this author. It is a prime example of the power of narrative nonfiction.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to those interested in WWII 8th grade and up.

Topics and trends: WWII, composers, biographies, classical music, narrative nonfiction, history


Bonus Quotes:

“Gradually, like the emigration of an insidious, phantom population, Leningrad belonged more to the dead than to the living. The dead watched over streets and sat in snow-swamped buses. Whole apartment buildings were tenanted by them, where in broken rooms, dead families sat waiting at tables. Their dominion spread room by room, like lights going out in evening.”

Source: School library

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson: buy it or check it out today!

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