Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad
By M.T. Anderson
Candlewick Press, 2017. 456 pgs. Young Adult Nonfiction
Brilliantly written and with a beautiful layout as well, this book about the 872 day German siege of Leningrad during World War II deserves a wide readership among adults and young adults. In fact, due to the harsh and often gruesome details of life under Stalin's regime and life during the siege, I would recommend the book only for adults and older teens. Describing life in the Soviet Union during Shostakovich's lifetime, the author weaves in the plight of artists and ordinary citizens under Stalin's reign of terror. Shostakovich managed to survive the purges and labor camps to become a national icon widely known outside the Soviet Union for his major musical works. His 7th Symphony, written during the siege of Leningrad, became a national symbol of hope for the defeat of the Nazis and an international public relations coup as well. As Russia became an ally of the United States during the war it was sometimes difficult for Americans to think of Russia as a friend. But Shostakovich's 7th became an international symbol of the humanity and high culture of the Russian people and triggered an outpouring of donations from ordinary Americans to help the besieged Soviets.
The audio-recording by the author is one of the best audio-books I have ever heard. His pronunciation of Russian words is excellent and his dramatic inflection is powerful. SH