Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Book Review: Symphony for the City of the Dead

Imagine a city bursting with life, music, dance, and history. Imagine growing up in a world that is changing everyday, so much that without moving the city you live in changes two times. Imagine a world where history changes to suit the needs of a regime so feared that people would turn in their own family to save their own. Imagine a world where food is so scarce you eat anything, from glue to rats, to the unthinkable.

Imagine a world filled with music, so great, so imaginative that it brings life to a city on the brink of death, and inspires others to fight for your cause.

This is the world of Dmitri Schostakovich. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1904, Dmitri lived in a world on the brink of revolution, and eventually war. In trying to stay free from the Czars of the past, Russia accepted new leaders who ruled with fear. Dmitri composed music to celebrate the new history of Russia in Petrograd, and tiptoed around his music in Leningrad, without moving.

In Symphony for the City of the Dead, the life of composer Dmitri Shostakovich is interwoven with the story of Leningrad, Russia and it's role in both World Wars, as well as the rise of Joseph Stalin and his role in changing Russian history. The symphonies tell the story of the city, the Russian people, and how those mean different things under different rulers. Dmitri Shostakovich starts out as a great new composer, to not so great composer to uniter of the people, bringing the plight of Russia to the West, support from the US and England to Russia, and eventual victory over the Nazis.

Symphony for the City of the Dead is a rich history that should be devoured by anyone with a love of music or history. It's not a quick easy read, but those who start reading will be rewarded with a story that at times is hard to believe. Author M.T. Anderson makes the life of Shostakovich and his family come to life, and the realities of a rough winter stuck in a city without food makes even the worst Wisconsin winter seem easy.

Be sure to have copies of the 1st, 4th, 5th and 7th Symphonies by the composer to listen to as you read this wonderful book!

I'll see you @ the library!
Katie (Now reading Mosquitoland!)

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