Symphony for the City of the Dead


Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson. Grades 9+ Candlewick Press, September 2015. 464 pages.

Did you know that 27 million Soviet citizens died during World War II, more than the total dead of all other nations combined? And a chunk of that huge death toll came from the Siege of Leningrad. Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg) is one of Russia’s largest cities, and during WWII, the Nazi army blockaded the city, cutting off all supply routes. Rather than risk the lives of German soldiers, the Nazis let Leningrad slowly starve and freeze to death.

When you have no food, no fuel, no way out, and the temperature is 40 below, what keeps you alive? What do you have to cling to? One thing the citizens of Leningrad had was music.

Is a symphony enough to save a city? Shostakovich thought it might be.

This is an amazing book and I can’t stop singing its praises. It’s at once a fascinating biography of a man growing up under Stalin’s Great Purge, a riveting World War II action story, and a testament to the power of music.

Visit my blog for a book talk, review, and readalikes of Symphony for the City of the DeadThe book will be out on September 22 – don’t miss it!