Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of LeningradSymphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Again from the black dust, from the place
of death and ashes, will arise the garden as before.
So it will be. I firmly believe in miracles.
You gave me that belief, my Leningrad.”

Anderson says, “History is not simply the great tumults and tragedies but the accumulation of tiny moments and gestures.” His book about this great composer and the unbelievable tragedy of the Siege of Leningrad attempts to paint a picture of this time in history in much the same way — providing us with the great tumults and tragedies and as well as the tiny moments and gestures of everyday people suffering through these bitter days. It gives you the grandiosity of a war that claimed millions without drowning out the individual voices of the people of Leningrad, specifically Shostakovich.

The descriptions of the music were beautiful and made me want to listen. It’s so hard to describe something in words that can only be heard, but Anderson does an excellent job making the reader feel like they understand what Shostakovich’s music sounded like even if you’ve never heard it before.

My brother found this book for me in the YA section of the book store, and I think it was meant for YA readers. I think that’s fantastic. So much of history gets diluted and we try to protect teens from the ugly truth. We all know the old saying about those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Our young people need to hear this story. Anderson does a great job making the reading accessible by defining content-specific vocabulary as he uses it in a way that doesn’t sound clunky but leaves the reader understanding what the words mean. It’s a great book for learning new words!

It also really turned me on to Russian poets from the time period. Mixing in the poetry of the poets who lived through the siege was brilliant.

Nonfiction always brings up questions of “truth” and I think Anderson handles it well when he describes his methods in the author’s afterword. It seems like an incredibly well-researched book. I highly recommend!

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