REVIEW: The Siege by Helen Dunmore

The Siege by Helen DunmoreThe Siege
By Helen Dunmore
Completed January 8, 2011

It’s one thing to be cold; it’s another to be cold and hungry. But that’s exactly the conditions Leningrad residents faced during the German siege of their city during World War II. And it’s the setting for Helen Dunmore’s riveting book, The Siege.

Told mostly through the perspective of 23-year-old Anna, The Siege accounts the daily battle for survival undertaken by Anna and her family. Anna’s father, wounded in battle, is slowly dying while her five-year-old brother battles hunger and asthma. Anna never lets risk stop her from finding food or wood for her family. She stands in line in the Leningrad winter for a few slices of bread, gets robbed for her firewood and sneaks into the countryside to dig up her family’s vegetable garden. Yes, Anna was brave, but more than that, she was intent on survival. It’s this hope that carries her family through the winter.

Woven through Anna’s narrative are side stories that eluminate the hunger and cold. Dunmore tells the story of “Food Czar” Pavlov, the Party Leader in charge of Leningrad’s food allocation. Pavlov obsessively recalculates the numbers to determine how he was going to feed some many people with such little food. Through his numbers, the readers learn what Pavlov comes to realize: there isn’t enough food to keep all of Leningrad alive. Dunmore also references little Tanya Savicheva, who wrote notes about the starvation and death of each family member, until only she was left. There’s also Eugenvia, a red-headed woman who kept herself alive with her cunning and broad curves. It’s these little sidebars that add to Anna’s story of cold, hunger and survival.

Despite the bleak subject matter, The Siege is a book one appreciates, eagerly turning the pages to learn how Anna and her family fare. Shortlisted for The Orange Prize in 2002, it’s no wonder The Siege has been widely acclaimed by critics and readers. If you like to read books about the survival of the human spirit, then The Siege is a must-read book for you. ( )


Orange January starts tomorrow – ready for some fun, prizes and great books?

While I know many of you (including me) have already started your Orange January reading, the fun officially starts tomorrow. Here’s a quick recap to get you ready for a month of “Orangey goodness.”*

LibraryThing Group
We have assembled a wonderful group of readers on LibraryThing for Orange January. Please consider stopping by, introducing yourself and setting up a thread of your Orange January 2011 books.

Facebook Page
The Orange January/July Facebook page is already 80 strong! If you are on Facebook and haven’t liked this page, please do so! Remember, I will be posting this month’s prizes and activities only on the Facebook page, so please don’t miss out.

Orange Prize Project
If you write reviews about your Orange January books, please consider posting them on the Orange Prize Project blog. It’s also a great place to figure out what Orange books you want to read.

A word about the prizes
The prizes start tomorrow! I will post the day’s activity or question on the Facebook page between 6-8am EST. You will have until 9pm EST to complete the task and leave a comment on the post. Check out my earlier post for complete prize details, including the list of books up for grabs.

Special note: You may like the day’s activity or question but don’t want to win the book. Feel free to participate anyway! In your post comment, denote that you don’t want to be included in the drawing.

Any questions? Just let me know in the comments or e-mail me at Let the Orangey Goodness begin! 

 *I stole the term “Orangey Goodness” from my friend, Laura. I plan on using it every day in January!

Orange January Prizes

Prizes for Orange January 2011

These are not the prizes I am giving away during Orange January.

Orange January is just around the corner, and as indicated in my earlier post, this month’s challenge will include prizes!

I’ve collected many books over the past six months to give away during Orange January. These books are gently used, including some ARCs, and looking for a good home!

How do you win a prize? Throughout January, I will post a question or short task on the Orange January/July Facebook page along with the book title that’s up for grabs. I live in the Eastern Time Zone in the U.S. and will have the question/task posted between 6-8am EST.

You must answer the question or leave a comment about the task on the Facebook page to be eligible for that day’s drawing. I will close the drawing at 9pm EST and announce the winner immediately thereafter. The winners will be drawn at random, the drawings are open to all countries and you can win more than one book. Winners will be announced on the Orange January/July Facebook page, and I will send you a personal message through Facebook to let you know that you’re a winner.

So what’s on the prize list? Many are Orange Prize winners or nominees. Some books were nominated for other prestigious prizes, while others are ones I think are just plain good. All are written by women.

Here’s the list in alpha order by book title (Please note: This is not the order of the book drawings!):

  • A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
  • Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund
  • The Accidental by Ali Smith
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  • The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert
  • The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
  • The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
  • Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn
  • The Quickening by Michelle Hoover
  • Regeneration by Pat Barker
  • The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
  • Small Wars by Sadie Jones
  • Trespass by Rose Tremain
  • The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey

Ready for some fun? Be sure to check on the Facebook page starting January 1, and we’ll get the fun started. Thank you for participating in Orange January 2011!

Exciting Orange January News

BessieCan you believe December is right around the corner? As you put together your wish lists for the holidays, I hope you’ll take a moment to think about another seasonal event – Orange January!

As a reminder, Orange January is when you pledge to read at least one book that has won or been nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction. You can include winners and nominees of the New Author Prize too. Reading one book is your only requirement, but I hope you’ll share your selections and book reviews with others.

This will be our third installment of Orange January, and based on terrific feedback from others, I have decided to make some modifications:

LibraryThing Group

In the past, I would post messages on several LibraryThing books about Orange January/July. Not only was this hard to keep up with, it caused many members to duplicate their posts, as many were members of multiple groups. So, for 2011, I have created a LibraryThing group just for Orange January/July. Please come by anytime before January to set up your little space and say hello.


Prizes? Yes, prizes! To thank you all for your participation, I will be offering some prizes throughout Orange January. Most of the prizes are gently used books from Orangey authors, such as Rose Tremain and Sadie Jones, while others are books that I think are wonderful and in the spirit of the Orange Prize. It’s entirely subjective, admittedly, but I hope there’s something in there for everyone.

About every other day on the Orange January/July Facebook page, I will post a question or quick activity for you to do. If you answer the question or complete the activity, you’ll need to comment on the Wall Post. Then, I will hold a random drawing from those who commented for that day’s prize. You’ll always know which book is up for grabs, so if it’s one you’ve read or are not interested in, you can skip the activity.

Prizes will be shipped worldwide. You can win multiple times also.

Please note this is a Facebook contest. I promise I am not trying to exclude non-Facebook users, but I have to make this simple for me (as I juggle my other life commitments). Joining Facebook is fun and easy, and you can always terminate your account once Orange January is over.

And just a reminder:

If you are looking for news about the Orange Prize, women writers or Orange January/July events, please join our Facebook page. Feel free to add your links and post your own messages! (Optional)

If you want to post your review to a centralized place, please post your review to the Orange Prize Project. (Optional)


Just let me know! Thanks for participating!


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