Brian Moynahan interweaves three gripping stories in this compelling kaleidoscope of war-ravaged Leningrad: Hilter's 900-day siege, Stalin's purges that decimated the city's professional and cultural leaders and Dmitri Shostakovich's desperate struggle to write his haunting Seventh Symphony. Its performance by half-starved musicians between bouts of German shelling attests to the triumph of the human spirit amidst the greatest upheaval of the twentieth century.
Leningrad: Siege and Symphony is a remarkable achievement. Brian Moynahan holds the reader in suspense while teaching an important chapter in the history of the Second World War. His magnificent tale portrays the terror within and without Leningrad during its heroic defiance of the Nazi conquerors and subtle resistance to its Stalinist masters. Like Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony, this is a triumph
A stupendous story, driven by a furious narrative yet biblical in its thematic confrontations of beauty and evil. It's vivid in three dimensions: The Red Army's battles with Hitler's war machine; the ordeals of the Russian people terrorized by the malevolent maniac in the Kremlin; and throughout the faint but swelling counterpoint of hope as the great Dmitri Shostakovich struggles to write the score of his Seventh Symphony to express the soul of his martyred city . . . This is history to cherish.
Beautifully written and profoundly moving, Leningrad is a stunning, haunting book that has stayed with me long after I turned the last page.
'A really gripping read ... the narrative is fantastic, very skilfully done ... I couldn't put it down. It's like reading a novel' Professor Erik Levi, Music Matters BBC Radio 3.
'The extraordinary tale of the symphony and the city that inspired it, an engrossing, finely researched new book' Petroc Trelawny, Catholic Herald.
'A bold attempt to set the composition of Shostakovich's 7th Symphony within the extraordinary context of its times' Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday.
'The scale of Leningrad's suffering and the lasting impact of [Shostakovich's] inspirational music are brilliantly captured in this extraordinary book ... Unique, a powerful and redemptive piece of work' Curtis Hutchinson, Military History Monthly.
'Tolstoyan ... Moynahan's account is by far the fullest and most compelling I've read ... it's certainly hard to read his gripping, skilfully woven account without emotion' Stephen Walsh, Spectator.
A Spectator Book of the Year
Like a movie camera, [Moynahan] zooms in and out on the besieged civilians, the bitterly cold troops on the city's edge and the simultaneous efforts of Shostakovich to set these experiences to music from the relative safety of evacuation... This multi-perspective approach makes for a gripping story... Moynahan's Leningrad: Siege and Symphony vividly brings to life a hero city that refused to die.
A passionate and moving book...nothing short of masterly.
A narrative that is by turns painful, poignant and inspiring
Moynahan...is a vivid writer, and his account bulges with the reminiscences and contemporaneous accounts of participants; the accumulation of individual experience sears his narrative while sometimes threatening to overwhelm it. He reaches into the guts of the city to extract some humanity from the blood and darkness, and at its best Leningrad captures the heartbreak, agony and small salvations in both death and survival...Moynahan's descriptions of the battlefield, which also draw from the diaries of the cold, lice-ridden, hungry combatants, are haunting.
As Moynahan reveals, the real story of the symphony's genesis and its triumph was more complex and more tragic than is generally understood...Combining a full description of the birth of the Seventh Symphony with a rich and horrifying account of the hell that was Leningrad under siege, this selection brings new depth and drama to a key historical moment