Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you're like me and struggle to read history, make it a cultural history like this one, where the history is told sideways through the life and work of an artist, in this case the composer Dmitri Shostakovich and his hometown of Leningrad, up until and during the Siege itself. The publisher is also YA and while this book is considered YA, I didn't find it overly simplified in its discussion of the music or the history. The author does a fantastic job narrating his own work, bringing a vibrance to the political and musical worlds of Shostakovich.
One of my goals this year was to better understand how Russia moved from WWI into the 1950s and still remain a powerhouse despite - or as I'm learning on top of - the devastation to the country and its people. The background of this story displays many of the missteps made by the Soviet government - really mostly Stalin - on the German front in particular, but also in dealing with their own citizens. One somewhat sordid argument this author uncovers is that it was Stalin's history of food deprivation that may have trained the citizens of Leningrad to survive what should have been an impossible solution. I don't want to give him that much credit, but it was an interesting tangent.
And who will now go on a Shostakovich listening spree? It's me!
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