- Title: Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad
- Author: M.T. Anderson
- Published: September 2015, Candlewick Press
- Source: Library, Scribd
- Format: Print and audio (narrated by author)
- Length: 456 pages (10:20 on audio)
- Tropes: Music Nerdery, History Geekery, Russian Misery Porn
- Quick blurb: Social, political and cultural history of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7
- Quick review: All music and history lovers should read this book RIGHT NOW.
- Grade: A
After reading The Bronze Horseman, I went on a Russian binge. I wishlisted and bookmarked and downloaded anything and everything. I wound up glancing through most of it. Except this one.
I may or may not have GEEKED OUT when I saw it. I glommed the hardcover from the library, then immediately got the audio as well.
It’s a young adult title by the author of the Octavian Nothing series (which I didn’t realize until just now). It won boatloads of awards. It’s a magnificent mashup of social, cultural, military and political history, And biography. And musicology. And fantastically good story-telling.
I love it when people write books just for me.
Yes, it has all the Russian misery porn you’d expect from a history of Stalin’s terrors and the siege of Leningrad. But instead of a meandering melodrama, Anderson gives us context and empathy and humanity. The story builds through all the horrors and then we get the TOTAL DRAMA PERFORMANCE and we cry and feel all the weltschmerz lift away.
It’s art against evil. And art wins.
Dear god, this was sappy. Ignore all of that up there, Just read the damn book. No, wait — listen to Symphony No. 7 first, then read the book. Then read the book again while listening to the symphony. Unless you’re a newbie to classical music, in which case you should read the book first. I am available via email or DMs for one-on-one suggestions/discussions.