Ten great books set in Madrid
Location(s): St Petersburg (Leningrad)
When German troops surround Leningrad and cut off food supplies in the fall of 1941, no one imagines that the siege will last 900 long days and take hundreds of thousands of lives. As the first “hunger winter” sets in, the city’s residents strip the bark off trees, boil and eat moss-covered stones, and trade priceless antiques for half a loaf of bread–and sex for a chunk of sugar. But the scientists at the Institute of Plant Industry pledge to protect their collection of rare seeds, painstakingly gathered from all over the world, no matter the human cost. One scientist describes how his small group of colleagues, including his quietly determined wife, Alena, splinters between those who would preserve their principles at the price of starvation, and others who turn to deception–and more sinister measures–to survive. His memories of the years before the war, when he traveled throughout the world and tasted the sensual pleasures of life’s lush richness, offset his heartbreaking account of the most wrenching decisions a human being can make. HUNGER is a powerful, beautifully crafted novel about human nature under life’s harshest pressures, and the beauty and pain that can come of it. – Like Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader, HUNGER is a deeply personal story of ordinary people caught up in devastating historical events. – Like Andrea Barrett’s Ship Fever and Servants of the Map, the central characters are scientists who see the natural world in a unique way. – A small, lovely, literary package, in the tradition of best-sellers Einstein’s Dreams and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.
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