Books Reviewed / Non-fiction / Uncategorized

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M. T. Anderson Book Review

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M. T. Anderson Book ReviewSymphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson
Published by Candlewick on 22 September 2015
Genres: YA NonFiction
Pages: 456
Format: ARC
Source: Owned Book

National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson delivers an account of the Siege of Leningrad and the role played by Russian composer Shostakovich and his Leningrad Symphony.

In September 1941, Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in what was to become one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history—almost three years of bombardment and starvation that culminated in the harsh winter of 1943–1944. More than a million citizens perished. Survivors recall corpses littering the frozen streets, their relatives having neither the means nor the strength to bury them. Residents burned books, furniture, and floorboards to keep warm; they ate family pets and—eventually—one another to stay alive. Trapped between the Nazi invading force and the Soviet government itself was composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who would write a symphony that roused, rallied, eulogized, and commemorated his fellow citizens—the Leningrad Symphony, which came to occupy a surprising place of prominence in the eventual Allied victory.

This is the true story of a city under siege: the triumph of bravery and defiance in the face of terrifying odds. It is also a look at the power—and layered meaning—of music in beleaguered lives.

Good Afternoon Lovelies!

I hope your week has been well! Mine flew by 😂 Today I’m bringing you a review of an awesome YA non-fiction title I read this past month. It really drew me and I couldn’t put it down!

I received an ARC of this novel from a donation I did for YARunsA5K. This does not affect my opinions on the work. All opinions are my own.

Ownership: ARC received in a giveaway
Genre: YA Non-Fiction
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Published: 2015
$25.99 (hardcover);
Amazon, B & N, Book DepositoryGoodReads, IndieBound

My Rating:

five stars

Symphony for the City of the Dead is a YA non-fiction title that follows the life of Dmitri Shostakovich, a Russian composer who lived during both World Wars. Anderson takes readers on a journey through not only Shostakovich’s life, but also through the history of Russia, specifically during War World II. Anderson interweaves Russian history & way of life with Shostakovich’s journey as a composer and as a Russian citizen. Both insights combine to give readers an inside look into Russia during this pivotal time in history.

I absolutely loved this non-fiction work! Grant I have a slight bias as I have Russian ancestry so I was already intrigued to learn more. With that said, I still found the topic and the writing to be interesting. Some parts were definitely slow. I’m not always the biggest fan of non-fiction as the works tend to be dry and overly factual. However, weaving the biographic journey alongside the Russian history really made this novel/topic more interesting and easier to read. I do have to say that the work is dense at times. It’s a long work and sometimes gives a bit too much detail that probably would have been okay to cut. So with this said, I’d recommend this to readers interested in Russian history or history as a whole. Otherwise, this book may leave some readers to abandon it.

As far as content, this book is definitely for young adults and over. Younger readers still might get a lot out of it, but there are some details that are a bit gruesome, especially during the discussion of the siege of Leningrad. With that said, I really found the content interesting. It was great seeing WWII from a Russian point of view. I never really read much about Russian history, so getting an inside account of someone’s life during these times was very eye-opening. The Russian people suffered greatly before and during WWII, much from the hands of their own government. But the Russian people were resilient, especially as they did their best to survive the siege of Leningrad in which the German army decided to block the city from receiving any supplies and basically just starve them out. I could tell that Anderson had put a lot of research into this work as the details and facts were ever present throughout the work—giving it a very authentic feel.

Overall, I really really enjoyed this work. I found that I learned a lot not only about Shostakovich’s life and impact on the Russian people & musical world, but also about Russia itself. If anything, this work encourages more empathy towards the Russian people which I definitely developed. Parts of this book left me so sad for what the Russian people had to go through. It was heartbreaking. This work definitely left an impact on me and I find myself reaching towards more non-fiction works about Russia. I’m hoping to learn even more since I have (as mentioned above) Russian ancestry.

In the end, I’d definitely recommend this book. Even if you’re not that keen on history or non-fiction, I’d still suggest you give a try. I loved it that much!

Thanks for stopping by! Let me know if you’ve read this book and your thoughts on Schostakovich’s life & Anderson’s take on it & Russian history. Have a favorite non-fiction title? Let me know below!

As always, Happy Reading!

*Disclaimer: None of my links on this post or on this blog are affiliate links. If I ever begin to participate in affiliate links, I will let you know. 🙂

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  • […] A favorite book this year from a different time period was actually a YA non-fiction title that I picked up for class, The Symphony for the City of the Dead. This book focuses on the Russian point of view of Post World War I through WWII–mainly following the life of Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich. I was instantly drawn in, as I have Russian heritage, and I quickly immersed myself in the history of this nation and these people. To say the Russian people suffered during this time is an understatement. Anderson does a wonderful job of displaying the hardships that the Russian people faced not only from Nazi Germany, but from their own government. It was a dense read, but a fascinating one. You can read more of my thoughts in my review on the book. […]

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