Book Review: Symphony For the City of the Dead

18 Feb

24727079I’ll be honest, this book took me a while to read. Not because it was boring, it was very informative and fairly dense. But, I now feel lke I know a lot more about the eastern front of World War II against Nazi Germany than I ever did.

This is the story of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, a city that has seen it’s share of violence, fighting, terror and fear.  Dmitiri Shostkovich was born in a Russia governed by the Romanov dynasty only to see a revolution occur and the Communist party take control.  Later, raids would occur, striking fear into the citizens of the country for years to come.  Shostakovich feared for his life every single day and night as he continued to write symphonies – some which won great favor with the Communists, while others were banned from being played at all.

And then Hitler struck Russia, creating a siege that lasted for 872 days.  Still people feared for their lives – from Stalin, from Hitler at this point the threat was real and in so many places.  Shostakovich spent much of the siege writing his Seventh Symphony between air raid sirens and blackouts.  The Seventh Symphony was played in the United States, Great Britain and in Russia and affected its listeners so strongly and became a symbol of hope and defiance against Nazi Germany.

Shostakovich did not have an easy life – being denounced from Russia not once, but twice.  He eventually joined the Communist party and there is dispute as to whether Shostakovich truly believed in the party or whether it was a requirement to save his own life and possibly the lives of his family members.  And although he is not very well known outside of Russia, the impact he made on the people of Leningrad during such a dark time will always live on.

Read Alikes: 

  1. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose
  2. Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
  3. Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone
  4. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin
  5. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

Twitter Booktalk (140 characters or less): The story of a the power of music when all hope seems to be lost, not only for the people of Leningrad, but for those around the world.

Title: Symphony For the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad
Author: M.T. Anderson
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2015
Page Number: 456 pgs.

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