I must confess that my heart sunk slightly when I picked this book up - reading the back, and looking at the cover, it looked like the kind of historical misery-lit that I normally avoid. I thought it would be all gloomy and depressing and overly dramatic but actually, it was none of those things and I really enjoyed reading it. I found the characters, and the storyline, believable and the whole situation, whilst being terribly sad, wasn't over-egged.
I think the best historical fiction teaches you about the period whilst still creating a story and characters that you enjoy reading about, and I think this is a book that does both those things. I knew absolutely nothing about the siege of Leningrad before the book (shamefully, I'm not sure that I even knew it had happened) but I now want to go and look up some more information about that period.
Dunmore's writing very cleverly encapsulates the way that the horrific gradually becomes the normal, and the way that the character's lives draw in upon themselves until the tiniest things - a spoonful of honey, a jar of jam - become the most important. And I loved the details of Russian life, and the descriptions of Leningrad and the Russian countryside - it's made me want to go back to Russia to see all these places!
Sorry - thought I had written my comments on this book [perhaps I put it on the wrong thread ] - really enjoyed it. Description was fantastic and I learned a lot about a period of history I didn't know much about. Thought it was a tiny bit slow to start with but I soon got into it and couldn't put it down. A great choice - thank you LS - have just picked up the sequel from the library today.
This is the great thing about the book swap, reading books that you might not chosen for yourself.
This is certainly not a book I would have chosen had it not been a book swap book, but I too found it quite gripping. I am left thinking about it alot, even a couple of weeks after I read it. I am definitely going to order the sequel from the library, as well.
Finished this today. I was initially underwhelmed by her writing, due to a combination of the breathlessly overhyping comments on the cover and the fact that I'd just finished reading a novel that really blew me away (What a Carve-Up! by Jonathan Coe, in case anyone fancies it). However, it did grow on me, particularly since the story was handled in quite a different way from what I initially expected.
Basically, I was pleased that she chose to recreate (very vividly and effectively IMO) the minutiae of extreme hunger and duress rather than spin some cheesy love story out of the two couples. It was certainly thought-provoking to read about starving children and babies while nursing my own rosy fat-cheeked 3 month old. The siege of Leningrad is something I knew a little about and have been interested in, but haven't yet got round to finding out more about; this book provided me with a softer intro to the subject than some of the more brutal history tomes that I would like to read when feeling less weepily hormonal
Thank you Lightshines for an excellent choice And thanks Jas for organising the swap, I too am really enjoying it.
Like others, I feel like I learned from reading this without having to really concentrate, but I have to say I found it pretty difficult going. It's just so grim and although obviously on a different scale, the fact that acute poverty is still prevalent in Russia is also pretty disturbing. I think I'm generally just a bit pessimistic about countries we see relatively little about though, with everything in Syria at the moment.