June 1941: Nazi troops surround the city of Leningrad, planning to shell and starve the people into submission. Most of the cultural elite is evacuated, but the famous composer Shostakovich stays behind to defend his city. That winter, the bleakest in Russian history, the Party orders Karl Eliasberg, the shy, difficult conductor of a second-rate orchestra, to prepare for the task of a lifetime. He is to conduct a performance of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony, a haunting, defiant new piece, which will be relayed by loudspeakers to the front lines.
Eliasberg’s musicians are starving, and scarcely have the strength to carry their instruments. But for five freezing months the conductor stubbornly drives on his musicians, depriving those who falter of their bread rations. Slowly the music begins to dissolve the nagging hunger, the exploding streets, the slow deaths...but at what cost?
Eliasberg’s relationships are strained, obsession takes hold, and his orchestra is growing weaker. Now, it’s a struggle not just to perform but to stay alive.
"Deserves to be mentioned alongside Jane Smiley, Andrea Levy and Rose Tremai." (Sunday Herald)
"Extraordinary ... a symphony on the power of love - the love of music, home, family, city.... A triumph on every level." (New Zealand Herald)
"An extraordinary period of history brought into proximity by a daring novelist.... Superbly imagined and brilliantly realised." (Lloyd Jones)
We've sent an email with your order details. Order ID #:
To access this title, visit your library in the app or on the desktop website.
A Powerful Study In Characterisation
- Brian Keaney
One of my best ever books
Yes. I don't normally but because this is so well written and contains a great deal of historical fact I will probably go back to it. Not only for the brilliance of the writing but to remind myself of aspects of this history. Sarah Quigley's portrayal of all her characters was brilliant. Her prose is exquisite. Descriptive, realistic, sparing nothing of the horrors of war but depicting the strength of human spirit. Flashes of humour made me laugh out loud from time to time.
The characters were so well portrayed that I had sympathy and empathy for them all. Despite their faults.
Sean Barrett always manages to narrate exceptionally well and I thought he managed these Russian characters well.
The book was appalling and brilliant at the same time. I cannot pick out one individual item from the horror or the siege to moments of tenderness - I couldn't put it down.
I am sorry to say that I never knew that there was a siege of Leningrad. I have researched it now and can't believe I never knew of such a monumental event of human hardship, tragedy and survival. Ironic that I read this as the siege in Aleppo reached a climax.