Thursday, October 8, 2015
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson
I had this book sitting on my dining room table for months while I tried to convince myself to read it. First of all, it is WWII nonfiction. Not My Thing. And second, it generated a huge amount of hype among advance reviewers. I am always wary of the overhyped, especially within YA literature where every book is the "next big thing." But finally I gave in, and I am so glad I did. Symphony for the City of the Dead more than lives up to the hype.
M.T. Anderson has achieved what I found to be a perfect blend of history, narrative, and springboard for questioning. The prose is suitable for older teens - accessible but not "dumbed down" in the slightest. Photos and maps are integrated throughout (helpful for readers who, like me, are geographically impaired). And so many layers! The role of music and art during wartime, the lengths to which people will go to survive atrocities... I will never forget the depiction of the Leningrad orchestra, starving and weak and almost dead, straggling in to play the seventh symphony to an audience of people who sacrificed their bread rations to buy a ticket.
Symphony for the City of the Dead is available for loan at Galesburg Public Library.