ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing

Helen Dunmore's "The Siege", a book review

Updated on September 28, 2013

Helen Dunmore's novel "The Siege" takes place in Leningrad, over the winter of 1941. It's like watching a history documentary, with a story woven through. Dunmore took her research very seriously here, and the novel is the stronger for it. I enjoyed reading it, and I learnt much about World War II that I didn't know. It felt strange to put so much trust in a novelist, but her background facts, and even some of the details, were borne out by further research myself.

In the lead-up to the harsh, Eastern European winter that gripped the city, its occupants tried to stave off the German advancement. Dunmore's main character, the young woman Anna, takes all the vegetables she can back to the family's apartment in Leningrad. She destroys what she cannot carry because German soldiers are close behind, and she does not want to feed the advancing army.

What follows, as winter sets in, is an unimaginably cruel cutting off of the citizens of Leningrad. Anna's father, her younger brother, and a couple of family friends do what they can to survive. Bread, rationed to slices and half slices, becomes increasingly doctored with sawdust as the authorities desperately try to keep feeding people.

Ironically, as the weather gets even colder, and people are literally frozen to death in their own fuel-deprived homes, some light appears. Trucks are able to make it over the frozen river Neva ... if they are lucky. Those that go through the ice take with them precious cargos of food. So precious in fact, what soggy supplies are possible to retrieve, are brought up and back into some of the only supplies that are getting through the German lines.

Thousands starved to death in Leningrad. Anna's family does not escape its casualties, but those who do survive, along with her doctor boyfriend, go on to become a smaller tighter family. They are through the worst, and in the spring, public gardens are dug up to plant cabbages. The siege continued, but the worst is over.

In a follow-up book, The Betrayal, Dunmore explores the history and her characters' lives past that first winter. But it has a lot to live up to after the intensity of the first. Thoroughly recommended for those who like their novels with real substance.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Keri Summers profile image

      Keri Summers 6 years ago from West of England

      Thanks Eddy. i'm going to add some illustrations for the "editing" task in April. Also, I just got the sequel book out of the library that I'm looking forward to getting into. HD is one of my favourite writers. Lovely to see you here! Hope Wales is sunny too.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A great review and I look forward to many more by you.

      Take care and enjoy your day.



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)