The Voice of Leningrad: The Story of a Siege

Written by C.S. Walton
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

Told through the eyes of a protagonist sixteen years old when the World War II siege of her city begins, this winner of the New London Writers Award is highly recommended.
The siege of Leningrad (now reverted to its pre-1914 name of St. Petersburg) lasted 900 days and left a million and a half citizens dead. It is the pivotal experience of returning emigrant Zinaida Konstantinovna. As the bombs start to fall on her city she notices women pulling beloved Klodt horses from their pedestals on Anichkov Bridge, and a comic sketch has her “laughing until my stomach aches, for once not with hunger.” As a singer on the front lines she finds in her audiences “faces beautiful as faces always are when forgetful of themselves,” even in theatres whose inside temperatures are below freezing.
The object of Zinaida’s modern times return is to seek out the love of her life, actor Ivan Dmitrich. She walks her beloved city full of memories and hosts a party for old and new citizens before finding the key to Ivan’s whereabouts and the answers to a Cold War betrayal that sent her to Siberia.
In telling, heart-rending detail, the cost of the siege and its aftermath on a human soul becomes clear. That soul’s triumph brims with experienced wisdom and the redemptive quality of art.