by Jessica Gregson
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Pub Date 9 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 1 Nov 2022
After Silence will be published on 9 August 2022, to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the first performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 in Leningrad in August 1942.
Leningrad, 1941. German forces surround the city at the start of the most harrowing winter in its history. The siege becomes a battle for survival. Bodies fill the streets, and the crushing horror of cold, starvation and bone-deep fear is relentless.
Set against this background of tragedy and suffering, a remarkable group of musicians — soldiers and civilians, all of whom have been wasted by war and hunger — come together to perform Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony. They scarcely have the strength to carry their instruments, but their performance of this haunting and defiant new piece provides a rare light of hope in the darkness. Friendship, love and a vibrant passion for music combine in this ambitious, absorbing and richly sensuous masterpiece.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 6 members
One of my favorite genres is historical fiction, and one of my favorite composers is Dmitri Shostakovich, with his 7th Symphony being one of my favored pieces. That all gets combined into the wonderful novel After Silence, which tells the story of Leningrad during the siege in WW2, and of the various fictional characters who will eventually play the symphony in Leningrad as a measure of celebration of the city, and as an act of defiance to the Germans.
The horror of the siege - starvation, death, aerial bombardments - is brought home extraordinarily by the author. Her descritions at times are so vivid that I felt as if I were living through the terror. Yet the characters are resilient in their own way. We meet them not only during the siege, but also learn their background stories. My favorite was Dima, the young blind violinist who is a genius with his instrument. The end of the book is the performance of the 7th, and the beauty of the narrative is a pleasure to read.
My only quibble is that the book is a little too long. I felt that some sections could have been tightened up, but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of After Silence.
My thanks to Deixis Press and to Netgalley for providing an ARC of After Silence.
This is an immersive and moving story set around the Siege of Leningrad during the second World War. Despite the harrowing circumstances it never wallows in depression. The characters have all suffered loss and starvation and their endurance and commitment to survival is frequently heartbreaking yet uplifting. Brought together by music that adds wonderful dimension to the story the diverse origins of each character are revealed in flashbacks. It is a very human story of mixed emotions and the four main characters, Lidiya, Katya, Dima and Trofim became very real and convincing. The atmosphere of the city under siege is vividly tense and dramatic yet the story is more about the people who inhabit the city, the detail of how they copy with scant rations and cold, the relationships between them, the ability to form alliances and even fall in love. There is some very emotive imagery, particularly the struggle that the musicians have just in lifting their instruments let alone the task of playing Shostakovich's Leningrad symphony which is the intended culmination of their efforts. I loved the story although at times it made me sad. Beautifully written it is very readable and worth taking time over.
Thank you to Deixis Press and Netgalley for an ARC.
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