Reading Group News

The Siege by Helen Dunmore

As regular readers of this monthly review will have come to expect ,our book group had polarised opinions of this book. I guess that is also true of most book groups most of the time!

This was a story recounting the lives of Citizens of Leningrad during the first winter of the siege at the start of WW2. I imagine that  we all know something of the horrors of this time, so you would be forgiven for thinking that this novel would be too grim to read. Some of our members would agree with you of course, finding it disturbing, dark and hard to get through. Others felt that the pace was too slow and that nothing happened, and along with that neither informative nor interesting.

We were unanimous in our view that it was not a book to be “enjoyed” in the accepted sense of the word.

It was certainly well researched, well written and the characterisation was excellent .One could “inhabit” the lives of the main personalities involved, such was the excellence of their portrayal.

Most of us admired the stoicism ,the ingenuity and resourcefulness described as being the stuff of life at the time .The hardships and suffering inflicted upon everyone were beyond the experience of us all. The determination to survive against the odds no matter the means to bring about that end changed people in ways which no doubt they could never have imagined in  less difficult times. There were odd moments of sacrifice and untold  kindness extended to others, also in great need, which gave the lie to their humanity having deserted them.

So for others we found the story compelling and absorbing bring a small portion of history alive in an authentic and challenging way. For those group members I believe that the story will never truly “leave” us. Thank you Ms.Dunmore! The score was 8/10

Submitted by Corinne Gregory